DULUTH – Canal Park is prepping for a tourism season without regular access to the very feature that draws so many visitors to the city: Lake Superior.
This summer, construction to rebuild the popular Lakewalk trail will stretch along the shore of Duluth’s destination district, from the corner of the lake near the Endion Station Inn to the Lake Superior Marine Museum.
After a series of storms wiped out large portions of Duluth’s Lakewalk, the city put together a $60 million plan to fortify its shoreline. This Canal Park phase of the project is expected to start in May and finish next winter, costing about $15 million.
The Carriage Way walking path will remain open during construction, but the land closer to the lake is already fenced off for safety reasons. The city is starting to haul in 76,000 tons of stone from a quarry north of Two Harbors in preparation for the project.
Matt Baumgartner, president of the Canal Park Business Association, said Wednesday that though the hotels, restaurants and shops in the neighborhood are worried how construction will affect the already “slim margins” many businesses are operating on, they’re hoping the new and improved Lakewalk will be worth the hassle.
“We are excited that we are not only strengthening our Lakewalk and shoreline, but we are also looking to the future to enhance one of our greatest attractions,” said Baumgartner, who added that Canal Park businesses plan to amp up marketing to let people know they’ll be open through the construction.
Once it reopens, the Lakewalk in Canal Park will have a new boardwalk, benches and lighting, all fortified by a new stone and concrete seawall.
Traffic this summer could also be complicated by construction to the Lake Avenue bridge, which spans Interstate 35 to connect Canal Park to downtown Duluth.
Last year, the city rebuilt the portion of the Lakewalk behind the Fitger’s complex. A storm in October was the reinforced trail’s first test, and city officials were pleased with how it held up.
Even more effort is being made to bolster Canal Park’s shoreline, an area that often bears the brunt of Lake Superior’s rage in storms. “This area is right in the bull’s-eye,” city construction project supervisor Mike LeBeau said.
Gov. Tim Walz is rallying support for $13.5 million in bonding dollars for the Lakewalk project, which is also funded in part by federal and state disaster aid Duluth received after storms in 2017 and 2018.
The city is planning to rehabilitate the shoreline from Leif Erikson Park to E. 21st Avenue and the Western Waterfront Trail in 2021.