Friday, July 23, 2021

Here’s the latest news back from the future...

"From golf courses to highway construction, news from the future has a familiar ring."

 Written by Jim Heffernan  for the Duluth News Tribune on 7-23-21 for publication on 7-24-21.

 Here’s a potpourri of the latest Duluth news for 10 years hence — say July 2031.


DATELINE DULUTH — The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced yesterday that the “Can of Worms” project in the city’s recently re-renamed West End neighborhood is at least half finished and should be open to traffic by the turn of the next century.


The complicated junction of Interstates 35 and 535 encompassing also U.S. Highway 53 has been under construction for more than 10 years, starting circa 2020. “We’re making great progress on the project some have called the Can of Worms,” said a DOT spokesperson. “We hope drivers will be patient and observe detours leading through various neighborhoods including several alleys. Be careful in alleys where garbage cans are often placed,” he warned.


On a separate front, fishing advocates and others have objected to the monicker “Can of Worms,” saying it insults our worm friends. Gerhardt Clitellum, a University of Worms in Worms, Germany, worms expert noted that many birds survive entirely on a diet of worms.


The neighborhood and business district near the “Worm Can” was once known as Lincoln Park but reverted to be called West End in 2025 when Cadillac dealers sued, complaining the name endorsed competing Lincoln automobiles. Attempts by some craft brewers in the district to change the name to Hopside failed in a divided City Council.


Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, local warfare between supporters of the former Lester Park Golf Course in far eastern Duluth and advocates for Enger Park Golf Course in the central part of the city continues unabated. The conflict mushroomed several years ago when advocates for reopening Lester surreptitiously bombarded Enger with a toxic chemical grass killer called “Agent Brown,” rained down from a drone.


After the links turned into a brown field, local contractors proposed turning the course into a mega gravel pit providing good-paying jobs, a move opposed by local environmental groups. Advocates for reopening Lester after Enger was destroyed were thwarted by lawsuits and arrests of Lester advocates suspected of waging chemical warfare on Enger.


City officials also pointed out that reopening Lester would likely involve razing recently constructed luxury condominium units with spectacular views of Lake Superior serving the city’s underserved upper crust,


The latest developments leave Duluth with no public golf courses, termed a “blessing” by environmental interests advocating returning them to what nature intended: woods.


City officials also have become concerned that the School Board is continuing to dicker over the sale of “old” Central High School atop the Duluth hill and “old” “old” Central High School, sometimes called “Ancient Central High School” in the downtown area.


Sale of both to interests hoping to develop housing were thwarted in the mid-2020s when developers chose instead to develop housing for the well heeled on the property once hosting Lester Park Golf Course.


The former plans to turn historic old Central High School downtown into a large apartment building changed in 2028 when the School Board accepted an offer by a Hollywood independent film company planning to film a new version of “Rapunzel” utilizing Central’s imposing clock tower from which the title character could let down her golden hair.


“This could mean millions for our schools,” said board member Sonja “Stormy” Weathers who beamed she has been offered a role in the movie, portraying the mother of the alluring golden-haired “Rapunzel” possibly starring middle-aged Taylor Swift. Other members of the School Board will be cast as “extras,” a spokesperson said. The superintendent will play “The King” if there is a king. Research is planned.


On another, unrelated, news front, progress on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline from Canada to Superior by way of several of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and a passel of Indian reservations has been halted due to unexpected popularity of electric cars and trucks. “Come to think of it we might not need that much oil after all,” said a company spokesman shortly before he was terminated.


Under construction for over a decade, it has been proposed that the section of pipeline already built be turned into the longest water slide on the planet. Entrepreneurs from Minneapolis propose running water through the pipeline instead of oil and offering tourists and locals rides on small craft designed especially for pipeline rides. “This would top Ye Olde Mill at the Minnesota State Fair,” said a backer.


Concerns have been expressed by environmental experts that the amount of water needed for such a project would drain at least 3,000 lakes in northern Minnesota and cause Lake Superior to rise markedly at the outlet, threatening Duluth. “Glensheen would be under water,” said Lester “Joe” Popple, a registered watershed analyst and part-time ventriloquist. “Park Point would disappear,” he mouthed.


Developers question that lakes would be drained, but noted that if so they would make excellent sand traps for several golf courses replacing the former Enger and Lester courses in Duluth.


Film at 10.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at 

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