DULUTH – A half-mile stretch of the city's popular Lakewalk trail is scheduled to reopen by this summer following a $16 million rebuild prompted by extensive storm damage several years ago.
The Canal Park stretch of the lakefront attraction was 95% done as of Tuesday, city officials said, but barricades will remain for several months as work is finished.
"The goal is to have it all opened up to the public by Grandma's Marathon, sometime mid-June," said Mike LeBeau, the city's construction project supervisor.
Already folks have started getting around the high fences and walking along the unfinished trail; LeBeau warned it's an active construction site and "there are dangerous elements right now — rebar sticking out, rough surfaces that aren't ready for prime time." A dirt path along the fence remains open to the public.
Massive storms upturned the boardwalk and wiped out sections of asphalt in October 2017 and again in April and October 2018.
Damage along the Lake Superior waterfront stretching all the way east to Brighton Beach was estimated at $30 million, LeBeau said.
The city is widening the trail as it rebuilds and reinforcing the shoreline against future storms, with boulders and walls protecting against storm surges.
The most recent Lakewalk work is the third phase of rebuilding after sections of trail were rebuilt and reinforced near the Fitger's Complex and back toward Canal Park at a cost of about $5 million.
In total, more than $21 million has been spent on the Lakewalk project to date. Federal and state money is paying for a majority of the work with the city covering about $5.3 million.
Last year's state bonding bill will chip in more than $5 million for additional work on the Lakewalk.
Repairing Brighton Beach and widening and reinforcing the stretch northeast off Leif Erikson Park to 21st Avenue are up next, but construction likely won't begin until next year, LeBeau said.
First built as a half-mile path in 1986, the 7.5-mile Lakewalk is one of the city's most-visited attractions.
Friends of the Lakewalk, a nonprofit that supports the trail, estimates it receives about 2 million visitors annually.
The constant closures in recent years have taken a toll on users — locals and visitors alike — since the path has become a major "transportation conduit," LeBeau said.
"The Lakewalk has gone from this little thing 30 years ago, this idea, to something that's getting worn out," he said. "This is a chance to reset that timeline, that life span, and also increase the capacity."
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496