Damage to Duluth parks totals $20M

Published 9:39 am Monday, July 30, 2012

DULUTH — Last month’s heavy flooding in northeastern Minnesota caused an estimated $20 million in damage to Duluth’s parks and left the city’s creeks too dangerous to swim in, city officials said.

All 14 Duluth park trails were damaged, and restoring the trails will cost nearly $10 million.

Kathy Bergen, the city’s parks and recreation manager, said people can continue using the parks while they’re being restored, but they should be careful.

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“Even though our parks are open, things are not the way they used to be,” Bergen said. “You can’t make any assumptions.”

Bergen said it’s not safe to swim in any of the creeks because heavy rains shifted boulders, rocks and flood-related debris in the water, making familiar swimming holes shallower and unsafe to jump in and making their banks unstable.

“You could be standing on the edge of a bank and think it looks stable, and then it could collapse right under you,” she said. “It could take months or more than a year to stabilize.”

In Chester Park on Friday, city officials pointed out steep washouts, a destroyed cross-country skiing bridge and a pond that was washed out.

In Lincoln Park, a bike path was undermined, retaining walls of the historic Miller Creek bridge were washed out and large rocks were deposited in the creek in piles.

Park work is complicated and will take time because of the different agencies involved and permits needed, said Kelly Fleissner, the city’s manager of maintenance operations.

“People are going to continue to use our parks until they’re fixed,” he said. “But there are little trip hazards, edges of roads that somebody could stumble off of. Knowing we can’t put up enough signs and can’t have people everywhere making sure everybody is safe, we want to point these out. If you are going to use the parks, use common sense.”