Many West Lake Drive residents do not want a multi-use trail on the lakeside of the street, but the Detroit Lakes City Council approved the preliminary plans for the street and utility reconstruction anyway in a unanimous vote Tuesday.

The council also voted to ban overnight parking of boats on the City Beach between 2 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.

On Tuesday, more than 15 residents showed up at the city council meeting to voice their displeasure with the city's plans to install a multi-use trail on the lakeside of West Lake Drive, between County Road 6 and the Pelican River. Some residents said the new road project will limit their current parking capacity, make them liable for any potential accidents involving an increasing numbers of pedestrians while backing out of their driveways, and endanger their family and friends by forcing them to park on the other side of the street and cross a busy West Lake Drive to reach their properties.

Avoiding bikes crossing the roadway is one reason the city wants to keep the trail on the lakeside, in order to protect trail-users.

"Our greatest concern is not selfish. It is not that we do not want the path near our property, we want it to be safe for every single person that uses it, including us and our grandchildren and our parents," said Julie Moore, a West Lake Drive resident, who read a prepared statement representing multiple property owners. "How could a path on the eastside (lake side) possibly be safer when it will still pass the same 24 driveways, two of which are business use, and four are used by the large time-share condo property, Breezy Shores?"

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Julie Moore, a West Lake Drive resident, voices concerns about an upcoming road construction project along West Lake Drive in Detroit Lakes during a regular meeting of the city council on Oct. 12, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Julie Moore, a West Lake Drive resident, voices concerns about an upcoming road construction project along West Lake Drive in Detroit Lakes during a regular meeting of the city council on Oct. 12, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Moore also said she and her neighbors have been huge supporters of the road and utility project, and know that the reconstruction is needed for the aging infrastructure, but they don't want the multi-use path limiting their parking spaces and forcing their guests to used proposed street parking on the west side of the roadway and cross a busy street without crosswalks to visit their properties.

"West Lake Drive is too dangerous, we were told, and busy for a multi-use path to cross," she said. "Even when property owners brought up suggestions regarding possible crosswalk markings on the street, signage and the use of lights, we were told that these efforts would not prevent the possibility of just one, careless, reckless individual disobeying the law and causing an accident."

Moore added, in Minnesota, failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk is a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $700 fine, or both.

Some residents also want the speed limit decreased on their section of roadway.

Jon Pratt, city engineer for Detroit Lakes, said talks are ongoing with Becker County about reducing the speed limit on that section of West Lake Drive, which is a county-controlled road. Currently, the speed limit is 40 m.p.h. on that section of West Lake Drive, but, Pratt said it's possible that the speed limit could be reduced to 35 m.p.h., or even 30 m.p.h., which would increase safety on the roadway.

He added the road improvements, which include adding curb and gutter and reducing the width of the road, will naturally force drivers to decrease their speed due to closer proximity to traffic.

"Study after study has demonstrated (roadway narrowing) is far more effective than signs," said Pratt.

Jon Pratt, city engineer for Detroit Lakes, speaks about the West Lake Drive street and utility reconstruction project during a regular meeting of the city council on Oct. 12, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Jon Pratt, city engineer for Detroit Lakes, speaks about the West Lake Drive street and utility reconstruction project during a regular meeting of the city council on Oct. 12, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

After hearing concerns from the residents, council members unanimously approved the road project.

The project designs are expected to be completed this winter, with an assessment hearing tentatively scheduled for spring 2022.

Preliminary assessments for the sewer, water, storm water and street will be between $12,051, for a 40-foot-long property, to $22,690, for a 100-foot-long property. The assessment will be on the homeowner's 2023 property taxes.

Construction along West Lake Drive is scheduled to begin next summer.

No overnight beach boat parking in ordinance change

Also, council members amended the city's beach ordinance to ban overnight beaching of boats on the City Beach between 2 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.

Violators of the ordinance change will face a misdemeanor charge, which includes a $200 fine and potential jail time, in some cases, according to the city's attorney.

Council members expressed concern about the fine and potential jail time and said they would revisit the issue at their meeting in December, when they will look at and formally approve the fine and fees schedule for the upcoming year.

Additionally, Dave Harmon, youth and adult sports director for the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, provided council members with a summer programs update during the meeting.

"All these programs, I've been at the community center for 10 years, and these numbers this year reflect an even balance across the board, or higher," said Harmon, during the city's public works committee meeting on Oct. 11. "Parent participation for volunteers has never been better. We have more men and women that want to step up and help out with the kids. It's just been fantastic"

Dave Harmon, youth and adult sports director for the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, speaks about summer programs during a regular meeting of the city council on Oct. 12, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Dave Harmon, youth and adult sports director for the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, speaks about summer programs during a regular meeting of the city council on Oct. 12, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Harmon added that Snappy Park averaged about 1,700 kids and parents per week during the summer sports season.

He also said, while men's and co-ed softball participation remained steady, he noticed a decrease in women's softball leagues this year.

"I can tell you that there are just not a lot of young ladies and young men that are playing softball anymore," he said. "When we grew up back in the day … there used to be teams of 19, 20, 21-year-olds, and that is few and far between. It's older guys and the numbers are just going to fall sooner or later."

He also highlighted the success of the city's pickleball courts and said many players are out there every morning using the miniature courts.

The Detroit Lakes Public Library also received approval from the city council to hire an architect to draw up renovation plans for their public bathrooms, which will begin a long renovation process as the library attempts to complete items on their most recent community needs assessment.

There will be a special meeting of the Detroit Lakes City Council on Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. to discuss construction of a helicopter hanger at the Detroit Lakes - Becker County Airport and a potential Detroit Lakes area arts council, which would allow the city to apply for more municipal grant funding associated with the arts.