Today is an average day for most Duluthians. A reality check that it is still spring in Duluth: it's a little gray, the wind has picked up and there is still the tiniest remnants of yesterday's snow (after a 70ish degree day on Saturday!
Today is not average day for Duluth's trail users. The Duluth Traverse Mini Master Plan is on the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting (7 pm at City Hall, 3rd Floor). The Master Plan was not written over-night. Over the past decade there has been an amazing amount of planning, collaborating, volunteering, advocating, fundraising, compromising, and so many other "-ings" that have brought us to this day. So why is this day so much more important than others?
The formalization and approval of this plan positions the City of Duluth and the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores to move forward, providing a thoughtful and transparent plan as we seek to secure additional grants. The amount of work that has been completed in regards to this project is astounding and with a stamp of regional designation for the Minnesota Legacy Fund we will have access to funding for much more than trails alone.
Here are some important things we'd like to point out:
1. Scope and Scale: This is a large project, and that has always been the goal. From its inception, the Duluth Traverse Trail has always been founded on the guiding principle of reaching every Duluth neighborhood, providing access for all and for being a multi-use trail optimized for bikes, but with access for hikers and trail runners as well.
2. Context on Cost: The majority of the budget estimate for this entire Mini-Master Plan ($7.6M on the high end) is for infrastructure, facilities and trails for user groups beyond COGGS. The DWP repairs alone are estimated at $3M, with other costs including trailhead infrastructure that will be shared by several user types and groups (see pg. 88 of the Mini Master Plan for further detail).
3. Funding Sources: The City of Duluth has been open and transparent that the intention of this Mini Master Plan is to secure additional outside funding sources. Claims that the costs mentioned above are going to be solely sourced from the City's budget are inaccurate. The following have been identified as the potential funding sources (see pg. 89 of the Mini Master Plan for further detail) In fact, the City dollars used for this project have been leveraged at the minimum dollar for dollar, thus allowing the City to invest in infrastructure it would not have otherwise been able to.
Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment funding
Minnesota Department of Transportation
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Foundations and Non-profits
1/2 and 1/2 tax
Private donations - COGGS
Statewide Health Improvement Programs
Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council
4. Finances: Proportionately, COGGS has been one of the largest contributors to the cost of the project through our fundraising efforts: support from our business sponsors, membership dues, events, donations, etc. To date, we have raised over $800,000 (approx. 28% of the project costs so far) for the project and will continue to financially contribute to the costs of maintaining the Duluth Traverse Trail after construction is complete.
5. Volunteerism: COGGS has one of the most robust volunteer programs in the City of Duluth. We have been holding strong at 5,000+ hours annually, for the past several years. Given the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate of volunteer time being valued roughly $23/hour, this equates to an additional $115,000 annual contribution by COGGS volunteers. We will remain committed to this project long after its completion and will continue to make contributions, both financially and through volunteer support.
6. Members: COGGS presently has over 620 active and paid memberships, a clear indicator that our community has bought into the Duluth Traverse vision and stands behind it.
7. Global Recognition and Economic Impacts: Duluth, MN has been designated as one of the six best mountain biking destinations in the world by the International Mountain Biking Association. The Duluth Traverse Trail is visited by people from around the world, with distant travelers and neighboring community members spending time and money here, positively impacting our local economy.
8. Supporting Youth Programming: COGGS has consistently supported youth and family programming in Duluth. While we have no paid staff, our volunteers regularly take personal time to attend community events such as bike rodeos, health fairs, the United Way Bike Swap and many more to promote a healthy and active lifestyle to the children within our community. COGGS has also hosted many maintenance activities with local youth to instill the importance of trail work to preserving and securing the future or the Duluth Traverse Trail and our city's green spaces.
Most importantly, COGGS has been involved in and supported Youth Outdoors-Duluth from the beginning. Collaborating with many other outdoor-focused user groups and youth agencies in our community working towards removing the barriers that prevent our at-risk youth from experiencing the recreation opportunities within our city limits. COGGS is very committed to continuing this support and partnership and in helping Duluth's youth agencies leverage every dollar possible and using the DT as a place where quality programming can occur.
9. Improving quality of life for residents: while tourists are important for our economy, residents come first. Having a high-quality trail system (literally in most people's back yards) is in one of the greatest benefits of the DT. There are many people with stories of making the decision to stay in Duluth, or folks that have relocated here, being heavily influenced by the fact that there is a world class trail system within our city limits.
10. Accountability and Collaboration: COGGS has always, and will continue to, work with all stakeholders and user groups. As the project continues we will seek to partner with additional parties to make certain that the Duluth Traverse Trail is an asset for all, benefitting our community, environment and city. This trail provides ample opportunity for so many, and we will be steadfastly committed to ensuring that it is never done at the expense of others.
Today, we need you more than ever.
-Please make sure your voice of support is heard loud and clear to Duluth's City Council by contacting your councilor http://www.duluthmn.gov/city-council/city-councilors/
-Attend tonight's City Council meeting at 7 pm as a show of support. The Duluth Traverse Mini Master Plan is critically important to move forward and secure the future of the DT.
Thank you, and we look forward to having your support today!