According to the Duluth Chamber of Commerce, building a golf course on Spirit Mountain makes economic sense. They say the golf course and lodge would yield “approximately $40 million to $45 million per year of additional economic impact.’’ Glenn Maxham, with Save Lake Superior Association and the Sierra Club, points out that these numbers simply do not add up! According to Maxham (and basic math), to bring in 45 million new dollars annually, the proposed golf course and lodge would have to take in $123,287 per day for every single day of the year, even during the five or six months of the year when the golf course would be closed—a logistic improbability.
Though this monetary figure has been used on a regular basis to justify the destruction of this ecological treasure for a golf course, now that the numbers are clearly incorrect, no one wants to take credit for coming up with them in the first place. Chamber of Commerce CEO David Ross claims the figures came from Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA). Tom Cotruvo of city planning and Mike Conlan of DEDA claim they have never heard of those figures. “In its zeal to convince us that the golf course and hotel are going to heap great financial rewards on our city, it (the Chamber of Commerce) must justify its claims with facts, not wishful thinking,” said Maxham.
A year ago the Duluth City Council voted to kill a proposal to build a new boat harbor at McQuade Road. They decided it would be an impractical thing to do based on numerous facts, including: the seven current Lake Superior boat launch sites are only operating at 10%, so there is no need for another one; the site has no natural harbor features and currently contains one of the last unobstructed views of Lake Superior in that area; the land was a gift from Chester Congdon, and the terms of the gift forbid development on the site; and the Knife River Harbor site is only 10 minutes away.
Despite all of this, Senators Sam Solon and Doug Jensen brought the harbor proposal back from the dead with a bill that would essentially allow the State of Minnesota to override Duluth’s decision and build the harbor anyway.
At a recent Duluth City Council meeting the chambers were packed with citizens, some of whom were carrying signs opposing a State take-over of this local site. The Council voted again, and sent a powerful message to the State Legislature choosing to protect this shoreland 7-1 (last year they voted 6-3).