DULUTH – One of the city's two golf courses won't open this year. A handful of street projects are getting pushed back to 2021.
As Duluth faces a budget shortfall of up to $25 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, city leaders are starting to figure out how to tighten their belts to make up for the sizable anticipated revenue loss.
"To preserve all of our essential services, we're being very intentional about how we are investing and being very cautious on the commitments that we can make," Mayor Emily Larson said at a news conference Monday.
Lake Superior Zoo, the Park Point Beach House and Wade Stadium will remain closed until July 1, at which point the city will determine whether it's safe and financially viable to resume operations.
Larson also announced that the city-owned Lester Park Golf Course will remain closed the entire year to save $150,000 of general fund money. Both of Duluth's public golf courses have lost money for decades, racking up $2.4 million in debt to the city.
The Enger Park Golf Course driving range will open on Wednesday or Thursday, and the city plans to open 18 holes on Friday after Gov. Tim Walz last week gave courses around the state the go-ahead to open.
Seven street projects slated for 2020 will also be postponed, saving the city about $1 million this year. Most renovations in the banner year for street work will continue as scheduled. The city plans to complete 34 projects on 14.8 miles of Duluth roads thanks to nearly $6 million in funds from the half-percent dedicated sales tax that went into effect last fall and $2.5 million from the city's property levy that the mayor had previously pledged to the cause.
Plans to put the city's first protected bike lane on W. Superior Street are likewise on hold for a year. The six-block stretch of guarded lanes through the heart of Lincoln Park's business district will be a detour of the Cross City Trail, a paved, off-road route that connects western neighborhoods to the Lakewalk and ultimately the eastern edge of the city.
Part of the trail will close for three years during major work on the "Can of Worms" Interstate 35 interchanges nearby, which have been delayed a year. Duluth officials said they wanted to time their construction to sync up with the major state project.
Though Larson expressed confidence that Duluth "will totally get to the other side" of the crisis, she also warned of more hard decisions coming as the city determines how to absorb the financial blows. Already, the city has frozen hiring and laid off 45 temporary employees.
"We're also expecting this to have some lasting impact," the mayor said.