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Public gets look at Festival Park options

There was no shortage of opinions when the options for developing Bayfront Festival Park were presented to the public.

The controversial patch of waterfront real estate is slated to become a quality performance facility.

On Tuesday, anyone interested had a chance to view the plans and question some of the architects involved.

And several hundred people did. A steady stream of lookers filed past the plans and related drawings displayed at the DECC.

Most of the interest focused on the three different concepts for the design of the park. At times there were tight knots of people packed around each plan firing questions at the designers.

The questions were as diverse as the crowd, which included Duluthians of all ages, city and civic leaders and people who have been involved with various ideas for the park.

Parking and access were major issues, along with rest rooms, maintenance costs, stage design landscaping and different amenities.

There was also concern about what would happen with two adjacent pieces of property controlled by the Duluth Economic Development Authority.

Option 1 showed a 7.9 acre park with a baseball field shape. The concept features a single stage near the water, a paved parking area running parallel to the boat slip and a harbor overview. The plan also calls for a fishing pier and transient piers in the slip for visiting boats.

This option uses the smallest amount of land and would be encircled by a paved trail.

Architect Todd Halunen said this option considers the historic aspects. "We're just showing a remnant of it," he said.

"We know there will be future development here," he said regarding the vacant land. "Whatever happens here, we'll have to have a connection to it."

He also said there would need to be a connection made to the Lake Superior Center.

With Option 2, the stage is at the back of the park and faces the waterfront. This plan uses nine acres and has the most on-site parking. It also has a fishing pier, boat docks and a picnic pavilion.

Option 3 seemed to attract the most interest. It covers the biggest area -- 11.6 acres and features two stages. The main stage would be in the waterfront corner by the boat slip. An ancillary structure with rest rooms and concessions would be next to the main stage.

A second stage for smaller events would be at the opposite end of the park. This option also features a series of cone-shaped hills, which seemed to both baffle and amuse much of the crowd.

Duluth resident Will Janke thought all the plans had some good ideas, but was concerned abut having enough parking.

City Councilor Russell Stover had concerns about access to the stage for equipment and performers. He thought the turnout for the event was great, a view shared by councilors Russ Stewart and Donnie Ness.

"I like part of each," Stewart said. "It's a great start."

Ness said he liked having the different options showing different concepts.

"I really would like an amphitheater," said Greg Price, a co-founder of the Friends of Bayfront. "What we're getting is an open shed."

He felt all of the options fell far short of what could be done to make the site a first class performance park.

People who attended were encouraged to complete survey forms that asked for comments on the different options and park features.

Lois M. Paulucci of Duluth funded the study and will donate up to $2 million for the development of the park.

The original Bayfront Park was dedicated by the city in 1988.

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