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City ponders replacement for overlook wall on lake

The Big Detroit Lake overlook on highway 10 near Holiday Inn now looks even more open, with the stone wall and overlook missing.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources-owned wall is coming down because of poor condition due to age and Highway 10 construction. The three monument plaques will be saved and restored in whatever the new wall or landscape will include.

Detroit Lakes Public Works Director Brad Green said last week Mn/DOT called, wondering if the city was interested in replacing the wall, given the current condition of it. Rocks have fallen out of the grouted wall, and more likely would with work being done in that area for stormwater treatment.

Mn/DOT's Resident Construction Engineer Jeff Perkins said the wall was in "absolute horrible shape" and would only get worse when pilings are driven into the ground near the existing wall.

"We knew it was going to happen," he said. 'It does every few years. We've repaired it over the years."

The wall, built around 1960, has been repaired every few years, and the final concrete cap was placed on it in 1999 and rocks were "re-tucked" at that point. Only eight years later, they were falling out again.

Although it is Mn/DOT-owned at this point, it will be city-owned after the construction is finished, and will be the city's responsibility to maintain.

Perkins said after the construction work is finished, the construction crews could go in and patch the existing stone wall, if the city would rather.

Besides the pilings that will be driven into the ground near the overlook, the sidewalk that was torn up was poured under the wall, causing more damage when the sidewalk was removed.

The wall itself is not listed to have any historical significance, but it may have sentimental value, which was one of the reasons Mn/DOT contacted the city on options for the wall.

A suggestion by audience member Scott Mehlhaff was taken when he suggested looking at other options than just a replacement wall.

Perkins admitted Mn/DOT just figured the city would want to replace the wall with a wall, but Mehlhaff's suggestion was a good one and the design engineers would look into other options.

Although the wall will be taken down, pieces of it can be saved for sentimental reasons and for money saving reasons in the future. Detroit Lakes has a plan to put up two welcoming signs once the project is finished. The rock could be used on the base of the structures, rather than having to purchase new.

"We (the state) don't have an interest one way or another because it's a city decision," Perkins said of the wall.

He added that Mn/DOT won't make a decision but a recommendation to the city, and his recommendation was that if it were the state's project, it would replace the wall with new.

The state will pay for the new wall, or whatever goes into the spot, but Mn/DOT wanted the decision to be something the city would approve of since it will be city-owned and maintained after the Highway 10 project.

"My major concern is aesthetics," Mayor Larry Buboltz said.

He asked that Mn/DOT take a look at putting in jutting areas along the wall, or something unique, to make it look like something more than just another wall.

Lay of the land

The new Highway 10 will actually be higher than the frontage road that will run where the eastbound lane of Highway 10 does now.

There will be a wall between Highway 10 and the frontage road as a safety net for car accidents, as to not run off the highway and onto the frontage road.

The height of the wall will vary, and "in some places will be imposing," Perkins said.

The wall varies from ground level to 6 feet in height in that area, and in addition, there is the 3-foot concrete wall on top of the retaining wall as a safety buffer.

Audience member Sharon Josephson said she was concerned that people along Highway 10 may not even be able to see the lake.

Perkins said from the distance and with the walls in between, the travelers likely won't notice the rock wall for the lookout.

From the railroad to the edge of the new Highway 10 is 30-35 feet in the overlook area. Throughout the entire project, distances vary.

There will then be an 8-foot shoulder, 12-foot west driving lane, 13-foot passing lane (including a 1-foot gutter), a 4-foot concrete median, a 13-foot passing lane going east (with a 1-foot gutter), 12-foot eastbound driving lane and a 6-foot shoulder, which will include the retaining wall.

Next will be the frontage road, which will have a 13-foot westbound lane (with a 2-foot shoulder to the base of the wall), 110 foot eastbound lane, 14-foot parking lane and a 15-foot bike and walk path.

That 15-foot path is wider in that area because it will be the area "most people will gather" for the scenic overlook. Perkins said the path will typically be 10 feet wide, with a section being as low as 8 feet wide.

From there will be the scenic wall or whatever structure Mn/DOT and the city plans to put in place. Perkins said the new structure will likely use some of the rock from the old wall.

From the overlook, it will vary 30-50 feet to the lake.

Before the change in plans, the bike path was slated to tour down past the south side of the overlook, with only room for the sidewalk on the north side, between the frontage road and overlook.

Boat launch concerns

Once the wall is torn down and replaced, Mn/DOT will be able to push the new structure about four feet closer to the lake, giving the parking along the frontage road more room. Perkins said the new design is tight and there is a limited area between the highway, frontage road, bike and walking path and the overlook.

"There shouldn't be a safety (issue). There is adequate parking space," he said.

The boat landing will be replaced between Holiday Inn and the overlook, but now boaters will have to drive into the landing, with about a 150-foot space, launch the boat in the water, then drive their vehicle and trailer back along the frontage road to park. The parking lane is about 700-800 feet long.

The vehicles and trailers will have to pull into traffic, but Perkins reminded the group, it will be onto the frontage road traffic, not Highway 10 traffic.

Aldermen Ron Zeman and Leonard Heltemes said any extra width of the parking lane will be an improvement.

Green added that the extra feet will improve snow removal for the city because plowing crews need somewhere to store the pushed snow.

The boat landing is being replaced because of the need for lodging in the area. Perkins explained the reason the landing was closed and will be reconstructed is for environmental reasons.

Before the project, stormwater wasn't being treated before it ran into Detroit Lake. Now two stormwater ponds have been installed in the area where the landing was, and a rock garden was installed near The Lodge on Lake Detroit. They will take care of 90 percent sediment and 50 percent of phosphorus running into the water.

Those ponds and garden were required to meet Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Pelican River Watershed District requirements.

Because the ponds will stay in place, there will be no room for parking at the new boat landing.

"Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for both," he said.