Brief History of the Trail.
This page is a work in progress
On January 13, 2020, the Duluth City Council approved the contract to build the River Route (seg 2-4 on our map here). This segment gets the trail right into the heart of the West Duluth community in Irving Park. The plan is to complete it this year. This segment will allow folks of all ages to travel from Irving out to Brighton Beach, completely off-street with the least amount of road crossings. For us, that leaves one section left to be built, segment 6 of the mini-master plan's designation with a small portion of the already funded, yet to be built, segment 3.
The River Route is a significant milestone in the Cross City Trails' long history.
As the years have moved along costs, have gone up big time. James Oberstar got $2,500,000 written into a transportation bill back in 2005 (PUBLIC LAW 109–59—AUG. 10, 2005 119 STAT. 1321 line-item 106 Munger Trail extension, City of Duluth). The first estimate from 2005’s application for funds, to complete the trail was $4,000,000. The planning for this trail has been in the works for 50 years, back when I35 freeway was being planned and built-in 1971. More money was granted from the Transportation Alternative funds over the years. The City lost $500,000 back around 2015 due to the lack of political will to run the trail where the citizens asked for it to go. Ironically the River Route is the same route that the mayor balked at then and had to turn back the $500,000 because the funding time ran out.
The River Route solved the issue of the "gap" as it was called back in 2014 and 15 when the mayor stopped the proposed alignment. The delay happened for a few reasons, but a big one was because the Irving community did not like the route the mayor was pushing because they had two other routes that the mayor didn't use. The River Route now uses Irving's preferred route. There most likely wouldn't have been an issue, but the preferred alignment was lost due to the City selling off small parcels of the abandoned DWP rail corridor that runs between I35 freeway and Grand Ave.
This section had many challenges. Many hours of work by city staff and citizens participated in the mini-master plan process that looked at six alignments through the Denfeld and Spirit Valley area. The citizens spoke loud and clear that the River Route was the preferred alignment. It accomplishes the transportation and recreation goals of being the safest route available that will serve all ages and abilities. It will also bring the trail into the heart of West Duluth after many years of starts and stops. Folks will be able to travel off-road with the least amount of road crossings with some unique views along the way. Places and sites many have never had access to before.
The City's parks and property departments worked hard to get the alignment through a complicated area working with Verso, MNDOT, and others. There have been many people involved in this trial because it started over 40 years ago with a vision by our US representative James Oberstar. He was the ranking minority member of the transportation committee when he wrote funding of the trail into a transportation bill in 2005, calling it the Munger Extension. People like Dick Haney, Bill Majewski, Jerry Kimbal, Judy Gibbs, and more worked on this well before 2005 back when the freeway was being built through the city. Jeanne Koneczny, Rose Hanson, Jack Pawuette, and others in the Irving community helped us find the best way to get into and through the Irving area, all the while giving access to Spirit Valley.
The River Route, "gap," had some of the best public input. They might not have been pretty, but we had an opportunity to voice our thoughts and concerns that, in the end, the plan adopted the citizen's input, and the City staff worked towards the goals that brought about the viability of this segment. This segment will further another goal of bringing together the east and west sides of Duluth.