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Cruisin' (and improvin') the strip: City of Detroit Lakes proposes changes to West Lake Drive

West Lake Drive in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Kaysey Price / Forum News Service1 / 7
Citizens review the West Lake Drive proposal Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, 2017, in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Submitted Photo2 / 7
The resurfacing will begin at the intersection of West Lake Drive and Legion Road in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and extend all the way up to where West Lake Drive meets North Shore Drive. Kaysey Price / Forum News Service3 / 7
The street will lose parking on the north side, but there is a proposal to make up for the loss. Submitted Photo4 / 7
The whole proposal for the West Lake Drive improvements includes a number of different pieces. Submitted Photo5 / 7
The proposed plan for the Pavilion building and area includes reclaiming the building's trusses to keep the building's "footprint" as well as adding parking in the area to compensate for loss of adjacent street parking. Submitted Photo6 / 7
The familiar strip of Detroit Lakes, Minn., is expected to see a major face lift in about five years, with the city planning some major changes to improve traffic, pedestrian, and bicyclist flow. Kaysey Price / Forum News Service7 / 7

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Detroit Lakes's "strip," West Lake Drive, began resurfacing Thursday, Oct. 19, somewhat of a temporary fix until a bigger plan unfolds. The complete rehaul the city is proposing for the road and surrounding area is not set to occur for another five years or so.

People are still be able to navigate the stretch from Legion Road to North Shore Drive with the help of flaggers, but Jim Olson, Becker County engineer, suggests people seek alternative routes because there will certainly be delay during the resurfacing process.

Originally, the plan was for the resurfacing to span two days, but Olson says they're going to try to do it in one, with the follow-up striping and cross walk painting happening a week or so later.

Thursday's resurfacing is somewhat of a temporary fix, or general road maintenance to clean up the lakefront strip until more can be done. Tuesday night, the city held a meeting to propose its more long-term plans for the strip.

The city, along with RDG Planning & Design, has been doing a lot of field investigation in the area, coming up with some of the bigger challenges they would like to address: parking; the ratio of commercial and residential space; and vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic.

Thursday night the city proposed a number of solutions — along with alternative options — to the issues they have found.

"One of the big challenges, just from a usability point of view, deals with parking, safety, the pedestrian and bicycle and motor vehicle flows in the season when there are a lot of people there," said Marty Shukert, urban planner with RDG Planning & Design.

Beginning with the street itself, the city is looking at removing parking on the north side of the street and widening that sidewalk from five feet to eight feet. On the south side, they would like to shift the parking over 12 feet to allow for a continuous, multi-use (but primarily a bike way) 12-foot pathway.

According to the plan, the sidewalk along the beach will remain and also be widened to eight feet to accommodate pedestrians. Then, there will be another continuous path that will go from Washington and loop through the neighborhood behind Lakeside and Zorbaz in order to better incorporate the park and fair ground amenities back there with the beach front.

With the loss of parking on the north side of West Lake Drive, the city is looking to compensate with a two-level parking structure behind Lakeside, as well as increasing parking in other areas, like surrounding the Pavilion.

"That really kind of compensates nicely for the loss of adjacent street parking," said Shukert.

Speaking of the Pavilion, the city is still discussing what to do with that structure.

Cory Scott, the project planner, says they have heard strong opinions from the public for both tearing it down and reclaiming the building. In the end, they proposed a reclaiming of the structure's trusses and deck, remodeling and making the deck multi-level, much like what the Hub 41 has looking out over the lake.

No commercial strip

The planners were adamant they didn't want the area to become a commercial strip, they want to preserve the residential portions of the area in the change, though they are looking at options to upgrade the existing resorts as well as the American Legion Campground, changing some of the more run-down areas to condos or multi-family development, while keeping some space in those areas for commercial use.

"The idea has been to redevelop some of the property where the old resorts are," said Shukert. "Even the idea of upgrading at least a portion of the campground so that it's more of a permanent residential community as opposed to tranchant camping, so it actually becomes a neighborhood."

Another big area the city saw in need of improvement is the fairgrounds. In that area, the city is hoping to give it "a sense of structure that really maybe it doesn't have right now," like the parking situation.

"(We're looking at) redoing the parking lot so that it is more efficient, which then adds parking on the west end for both lake-front use and fairground use (and) adding public space in the fairground because the idea is that fairground space is a really good resource and it, ideally, should be used for more than just a county fair," said Shukert.

"The fairgrounds is still there, but there's just been discussions about how to better-utilize the space year round," said City Administrator Kelcey Klemm.

Then, of course, there is the West Lake Drive curve, where Scott says "there just going to have to be some decisions made."

"There's been past conversations about a roundabout," he said. "There's advantages to it, but there's also thoughts of, you know, let's not do a roundabout."

The advantage of a roundabout would be allowing eastbound traffic along the road to turnaround and head back down West Lake Drive, and it would also substantially slow down traffic.

"Cars tend to whip around that curve," said Shukert.

Though, he says there are also other solutions to slow down traffic, like neckdowns or curb extensions.

To learn more about the West Lake Drive proposal, citizens can visit plandetroitlakes.com.

Legion Road to County Road 6

After the resurfacing but before the West Lake to North Shore Drive face lift, the county is also looking at improving the section of West Lake Drive from Legion Road to County Road 6.

The county has received a grant to put in a multi-use trail along that stretch, as well as another for storm sewer improvements.

Olson says the trail will be a 10 foot-wide, multi-use trail, and it will run close to the lake, about where West Lake Drive currently sits. The road will then move slightly to the north.

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