For decades, it was an open secret among climbers: Tucked inside a neighborhood on Duluth’s west side sat a wide and tall cliff carved from an old quarry. Most winters, natural ice cascades down its face, ripe for crampons, axes and ropes.
Now the secret is officially out: Ice climbing there will be sanctioned by the city.
Duluth is adding to its repertoire of outdoor adventure attractions by creating a new 30-acre park at the site of the quarry once owned by the Crushed Stone Co.; its main attraction is a 1,000-foot-long, 100-foot-high cliff for ice climbing.
The park, in the Cody neighborhood next to Brewer Park, is part of the city’s efforts to revitalize the St. Louis River corridor. While officials expect it to open this winter season for climbing, enhancements are planned, including adding parking, drilling a well and putting in electrical and plumbing lines to make ice on shorter and lower-angled sections of the wall in the future for intermediate and beginning climbers.
“It’s super exciting to finally know that we can climb without having to do it under the radar,” said David Pagel, a board member with the newly formed Duluth Climbers Coalition, a nonprofit that is raising money to help fund and maintain the climbing portion of the park. So far the group has raised $7,000.
It will be the first major project to succeed with the help of Duluth’s unofficial outdoors czar, Hansi Johnson, who is employed by the Minnesota Land Trust to help fund the preservation of key green spaces.
“It is such an amazing spot,” Johnson said of the forgotten industrial site, “when you go up there and see the city as a whole and that unique view.” The site can also serve as a trailhead for other popular hiking and mountain biking trails, he said.
Most of the land for the park, which organizers are calling Quarry Park, was recently transferred to the city from St. Louis County. The Duluth City Council approved a purchase agreement for a privately owned, 10.6-acre adjacent cemetery parcel for $54,000.
All told, the city is committed to matching 50 percent of the total cost up to $200,000 for the park and improvements using its half-percent sales tax on food, beverage and lodging.
Officials will be meeting with nearby residents to come up with a master plan for the park, which many people now use as a place to hike, run their dogs or have a picnic. Those uses will continue.
Already, the coalition is planning an “Ice and Mixed Fest” for Feb. 26-28, filled with clinics, presentations and climbing.