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At rest and on the move: Parks and trails are part of the West Lake Drive plan

Trails, sidewalks and green spaces in the beachfront area are laid out in the proposed West Lake Drive Plan. Graphic by RDG Planning & Design1 / 3
Small parks, green spaces and plazas are part of the vision for West Lake Drive. RDG Planning & Design2 / 3
West Lake Drive in the summertime: The sidewalks would be substantially widened and trails added under the proposed plan. RDG Planning & Design3 / 3

While potential redevelopment plans near the city beach have caught the public's attention, park improvements and new trails are another element of the proposed West Lake Drive Plan.

The plan is designed to improve the walkability of the corridor and make it more convenient for bicyclists, while retaining access for motorists.

Elements of the concept include:

- Improve walkability by widening and leveling the beach sidewalk (to 6 or 8 feet wide from 3 feet) and widening the sidewalk across from the beach to 8 feet to keep people from walking in the street.

- Add a new multi-use path along beach side of the street, which could mean the loss of some mature trees—more than 100 ash trees line the street on the beach side.

"No one wants to remove the trees," said City Administrator Kelsey Klemm. "When they do road improvements, to put a trail in, some trees might have to come out," he said. "The plan just encourages the city to do some planting."

"Ash trees are endangered by the emerald ash borer," the plan states. "This plan recommends planting a new line of trees that are set back 10 feet from the existing ash trees. Substitute trees could include Kentucky coffee or hackberry."

The new trail would improve bicycle movement, especially for people traveling in groups. It will connect to a trail the city plans to build past Legion Road on West Lake Drive that will connect to the Dunton Locks trail along the Pelican River.

Also in the plan is a new Peoples Pathway, running parallel to West Lake Drive and behind businesses. The trail would provide access to the neighborhood and create a buffer between the neighborhood and existing businesses. And it would provide a more direct route from City Park to the Becker County Fairgrounds.

The plan recommends closing the city boat launch on West Lake Drive.

"Launching boats on West Lake Drive interrupts traffic flow, fractures the continuity of the beach, and occupies parking spaces," that could be used for people visiting the beach or businesses, the plan states.

A new boat launch could be considered in City Park, using the alignment of Lincoln Avenue.

The existing launch near Rossman Avenue would be retained for non-motorized boats, including canoes, kayaks and sailboats.

Other beachscaping ideas include cabanas and bar areas on the beach across from Lakeside Tavern and Hub 41.

Zorbaz and Lakeside are mentioned in the plan as possibly willing to operate the beach bars. "Cabanas and beach bars create activity along the beach, while the beach bar expands business opportunities in the district," the plan states. "The city ordinance prohibits alcohol on the beach, and would need to be revisited to allow this type of use." The bars didn't introduce the idea, which came from the public, according to the plan.

Permanent restrooms are proposed at West Lake Park (a new park to be created around the city bathhouse on Rossman Avenue) and near the Pavilion. Portable toilets along the beach would be replaced and screened.

New shade structures, lighting, signs, benches, planters, flower baskets, picnic tables, trash bins, bicycle racks and bollards would all reflect a beach theme.

In the Legion area, the existing bathhouse would be replaced by a new parking lot, to be shared by a possible new mixed-use development—envisioned as a three-story building with the main level reserved for parking and the Super Suds laundry, according to the plan. Upper-story residential could be owner-occupied or vacation rental by owner, and it could be associated with the Legion Campground.

A new plaza in front of the Legion club would provide an outdoor gathering space for visitors. "The space can have a seating area, shelter and features that recognize veterans," the plan states. "The lounge itself could expand to the west."

Also in the plan is a possible Gateway Entrance— a new road into the Legion Campground, with landscaping and possibly a new welcoming building, incorporated into the mixed use project.

The plan includes a lot of options and recommendations, but they are only concepts, Kelsey said. "Getting rid of the (Washington) Ballpark is one concept," he said. "It's not a recommended part of the plan, but it's included in the report (because the idea was brought forth during the public input process). But that doesn't mean there's a lot of support for it."

A copy of the 70-plus page proposed plan is now available at www.plandetroitlakes.com.

The Detroit Lakes Development Authority approved the plan last month. It is now available for public review and comment, and a public hearing will be held on it later next month. A final date has not been set.

Once given final approval, the West Lake Drive plan will become part of the city's updated Comprehensive Plan.

Detroit Lakes residents, public officials and business people participated in a series of public input meetings, focus group gatherings and open houses held over the past year, spurred by the City Council decision to commission RDG Planning & Design to create a plan for development of the West Lake Drive corridor. It's part of an overall update to the city's 2008 Business Corridor Plan, which resulted in the downtown streetscaping projects and was also the work of RDG.

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