Duluth Asks $450K for Campground Updates
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A proposal to seek a $450,000 state grant for improvements at Indian Point Campground in Duluth, Minn., moved ahead Monday (Oct. 24) when the Duluth City Council voted 8-1 to support the request.
Two weeks ago, the council tabled a motion to authorize the grant application in the face of residents’ concerns about the project and the effect the changes could have on the park’s character, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
But the plans for the 27-acre campground have changed substantially in the past couple of weeks.
Councilor Jay Fosle, who cast the sole vote against Monday’s motion, said the dramatic changes in the plan discomforted him.
“I feel like a rubber band man, being pulled this way and that,” he said.
But other councilors praised city staff for their flexibility.
“The plan has changed because city administration has been very responsive. They’ve listened to what citizens have said,” Sharla Gardner said.
“When this plan first came forward, it was much more comprehensive,” acknowledged David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer.
That original plan included a new 40-vehicle parking lot, a playground, volleyball courts, a bocce ball/horseshoe area and a large pavilion that could be rented out to host gatherings.
Judy McGaffey, a resident of Duluth and an avid RV camper, said Indian Point is too special and small to jam full of incompatible recreational attractions.
“It’s unique because it’s close to everything, and it’s quiet,” she said. “It needs to stay a campground because it is a diamond in the rough.”
McGaffey suggested the No. 1 problem with the campground was the state of the restrooms and showers, which she deemed “despicable.”
City staff revisited the proposed grant application in light of public concerns that were voiced about the impact it could have on bird and wildlife habitat, water quality and the operation of a very popular campground that caters to owners of recreational vehicles.
Montgomery said staff came back Monday with a much more modest plan addressing the campground’s most immediate needs.
“The biggest complaint we heard was the condition of the restrooms and the showers,” he said, adding that the facilities also need to be made more accessible to people with disabilities. Montgomery estimated these improvements could cost $150,000.
Councilor Todd Fedora successfully amended a motion to seek grant funding, making a full reconstruction of the campground’s bathrooms and showers the top priority of using grant money. He also voiced support for path improvements to make the adjacent Western Waterfront Trail accessible from the park for people with disabilities.
“Our first priority should be to make this campground accessible to everyone,” Fedora said.
Other improvements that could be funded with the grant include the installation of a small loop of paved footpath, the construction of a couple of small picnic pavilions, new trees and the relocation of a larger pavilion to provide better views of the neighboring St. Louis River.
If the council had not authorized the grant Monday, the city would have had to sit out the current round of Legacy Grant funding, as applications are due Oct. 30. City staff said Duluth has a one-time opportunity to access grant money and pay only a 10 percent local match, instead of the normal 25 percent match. If Duluth wins the full amount of its grant, the city would need to pay $45,000 instead of the $112,500 it normally would.
Kathy Bergen, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation division, said she expects the 25 percent match requirement to return next year.