Minnesota's Lake Superior Coastal Program

Landscape Planning for Duluth Township Community
Center/North Shore Community School
Final Report Prepared by David R. Mount
Chair, Duluth Township Board of Supervisors
March 9, 2009
Project No. 306-ST AR03-08
Contract No. B16406
Thi s project was funded in part under the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA's
Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in cooperation with Minnesota's
Lake Superi or Coastal Program.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Thi s project was funded jointly by the Town of Duluth, and by the Coastal Zone Management
Act. by NOAA" s Office of the Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in cooperation with
Minnesota' s Lake Superior Coastal Program. We thank all who participated in the work sessions
and other meetings held to formulate the plan. We' d li ke to thank Paul Voge and LHB
Architects fo r donat ions of time and effort to reduce the cost of the site survey. We also thank
Sue Lawson. Planning Di rector for Duluth Townshi p, for her efforts to lead the Township's
steering commi ttee and for coordinati ng act iviti es with the Center for Changi ng Landscapes.
Finall y. we thank Mary Vogel, Roger Martin, Laura Detzler, and lichole Schl epp of the
Uni versity of Minnesota Center for Changing Landscapes for their experti se and enthusiasm.
I 'TRODUCTION
The project involved the development of an environmentall y sound and sustainable plan for the
40-acres of land surrounding the Duluth Township Community Center. This site is the former
location of ISO 381 's "North Shore Elementary School" which was schedul ed for closure by the
di strict in 2002. Tlu-ough the a grass-roots effort by communi ty members, a deal was struck by
which the school would continue operation as a K-6 charter school, the North Shore Communi ty
School ISCS). Since its formation in 2002, enrollment has grown from 180 to over 300
student s and it has become a model for a true "community school" (see
w"vw.northshorecommunityschool. org). The emphasis selected for the charter school was
environmental educati on and, in keeping with that emphasis, the community sponsor for the
charter school is Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. The grounds themselves are
ideal ly suited to the environmental focus, including rougl y 30 acres of forest and about Y.. stream
miles of a designated trout stream. Schmidt Creek. which drains into Lake Superior.
A requirement of the charter school program in Minnesota is that the charter school cannot
own its own building. To meet thi s requirement, charter school organi zers approached Duluth
Township (in whi ch the school resides) to play a role. Through a deal negotiated wi th ISO #381.
the buildings and grounds of the di strict property were sold to Duluth Township, who now owns
the property as its Community Center. In addit ion to supporting communi ty functions such as
recreational sports and social funct ions, the facility has the NSCS is a primary lessee. Thi s
arrangement generates sufficient lease income for the Township to support the operation and
maintenance of the bui ldings and grounds, and by all accounts it has been a tremendously
successful. symbiotic relationship.
Over the past 6 years, the NSCS has undertaken a number of projects outside the school wall s
consistent with ecological conservation and education; these proj ect s include a passive solar
straw-bale greenhouse, installati on of a solar electrical generation panel array (see
http:// www.northshorecommunit yschool. org/sunny/ ) . and development and implementati on of a
forest management plan in cooperat ion with the MN DN R. Most recentl y. the ISCS received a
$75,000 cash award li'OI11 the Loui siana Pacific Corporation to fund a number of outdoor projects
intended to facilitate outdoor and environmental education, such as nature trail s and an outdoor
classroom (construction to be compl eted by fall 2009). While thi s represent s a tremendous
opportunit y. it simultaneously emphasized to the NSCS and the Township Board (as landl ords)
the need to undertake a careful consideration of the way in which the sit e was developed so that it
maximi zed educational, recreati onal. and social opportunities for the school and communit y as a
whole, whi le respecting the natural setting, protecting Schmidt Creek and the coastal watershed
as a whol e. and maximi zing sustainability/minimi zing impacts.
Aft er consulting a number of resources. the Uni versity of Minnesota Center fo r Changing
Landscapes (http://ccl.gi s.llllln. edu/ ) was identifi ed as a perfect fit to the goal s of maximi zing
both benefit and sustainabili ty of the project. The stated goals of the CCL are to link ex perti se in
natural resource management , archit ecture, landscape architecture and design. which parall eled
2
our needs precisely. Accordingly, the Duluth Town Board worked with NSCS and CCL to
develop a program through which the CCL work with to Town to sol icit input t'·om the many
consti tuencies of the community center/school and develop a master site plan that provides
exceptional resources for environmental education and recreation for both the school and
community. The detail s of thi s plan are provided in the secti ons that fo ll ow and in the attached
documents. This plan will be the template for the deployment of both the $75,000 of grant funds
in hand. as well as future projects.
3
WORK COMPLETED
The project was completed as originally proposed. The first element was to conduct a sub­
centimeter survey of the open land at the site, including location of all existing structures and
services. In addition, a less elevationally precise survey offorested portions of the site was also
completed. This information was transferred to the Center for Changing Landscapes (CCL) who
used the survey data to create a three-dimensional scale model of the site.
CCL held a series of brainstorming sessions with different constituencies for the si te, including
school children, school faculty and staff, and members of the community at large. In these
sessions, CCL staff used various teclmiques to extract input on each group's likes and dislikes in
regard to the current site conditions, as well as ideas and priorities for the future.
Following these initial meetings, CCL developed an initial analysis of site parameters and
objectives, and developed three alternative conceptual designs which were presented to the
project steering committee in another on-site meeting. The three alternatives shared many
common landscape elements, but differed primarily in the relationship between the
community-oriented spaces and the school-oriented spaces; in one, community-oriented space
was located well away from the existing (school) building, the second had the two adjacent but
separated by a small greenspace, and the third had them incorporated into the same building. All
alternatives included regrading of the area surrounding the building to improve drainage, and
incorporation of rain gardens and a drainage swale to better direct and retain storm water flows
on the site.
These alternative designs were reviewed by the steering committee, the Town Board,
representatives of the school, and by the public at a fall community gathering. The consensus
was that the third alternative, with shared community and school space, was the preferred
alternative.
With that, the CCL is proceeded to refine the shared space alternative and held another on-site
meeting with the steering conunittee, and representati ves from the Town Board and North Shore
Community School Board, to present the refined landscape design and discllss appropriate
modifications or improvements. The design was favorably recei ved, although a number of lilinor
alterations were discussed to better mesh with specific needs or constraints. Following the
meeting, CCL further refined the design, which was presented to the project steering committee
at a final on-site meeting November 25,2008. This meeting resulted in a few additional
adjustments, primarily related to progress in a separate planning effort for future expansion of the
community center building itself. This November meeting was the last on-site meeting planned
for the project. CCL then completed the design development and prepared final drawings,
phased construction reconunendations, grading plans, and re-vegetation specifications. The final
document is planned for public posting by CCL at http: //ccl.design.urnn.edu!
4
Perjimllance Measures
Thi s project involved three Performance Measures :
Government Coordination and Decision-Making - Invalves educatianal activities:
The proposed landscape design includes several features, such as water gardens and
natural pl anti ngs that can be used by North Shore Communi ty School as elements of their
environment al educati on program.
Water Quality - Invalves the develapment 0.1.' implementatian af ardinances, palicies, 0.1.'
1,Ians to. cantrol 0. 1.' prevent palluted }"/Ina/lta caastal waters: The proposed landscape
design redirects stormwater flows into rain gardens and natural drainage swales to reduce
runoff and sediment transport into Schmidt Creek and its tri butaries, whi ch will in turn
reduce transport of di ssolved and suspended materials into Lake Superi or.
Coastal Dependent Uses and Community Development - Develaps and implements
local plans that incarparate sustainable grawth caastal management practices:
Expertise in sustainable design was one of the key factors in deciding to work with the
Center for Changing Landscapes, and these principl es are refl ected in the final design.
5
RESULTS
The primary output of thi s project is the Master Plan and associated landscape design for the
Duluth Township Community Center and orth Shore Community School. An overview of thi s
Master Plan is provided on the following page of this document, and can be seen in detail at the
CCL website, http://ccl.design.urnn.edu .
This plan is proving of il1Ullediate benefit as it is already guiding site development. The North
Shore Community School already has $75K in grant fWlds to develop certai n landscape features,
such as the outdoor classroom/picnic pavilion and the outdoor toilets, and the Master Plan is
guidi ng the placement and orientation of this features as they are installed during the summer of
2009. In addit ion, the Master Pl an is being used as the framework for soli citing funds from other
organizations to implement the plan. Duluth Township has already been successful in obtaining
$23K from the Laura Jane Musser Fund to help implement Phases I and II of the Master Plan.
We firmly believe that the organization and vision demonstrated by the development of the
Master Plan was a major factor in convincing the Musser Fund that the Town would make good
use of grant funds. With this avai labi li ty of funds, we are planning to implement significant
portions of the Phase I and Phase II activities in the SUl1Uller of2009, demonstrating that the
funds investing in plaruling will yield near term benefit "on the ground. "
Benefits of implementi ng the Master Pl an are articulated under the Pelformance Measures in the
preceding section, namely: I) improved water quality in Schmidt Creek and Lake Superior; 2)
education of both elementary school chi ldren and the community at large relative to stormwater
management and sustainable landscaping; and 3) facilitating decision-making by the local unit of
govenmlent in regard to protecting the Lake Superior coastal environment.
6
,I ( ___ _ ___ _ ___ _ _ __ _
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7
LEVERAGED DOLLARS
Total cost for thi s project was $20AOO. with $5.000 of that being provided by the Minnesota
Lake Superior Coastal Program and the balance provided by Duluth Township. Add iti onal in­
kind contributions were provided by Mr. Paul Voge, who donated hi s professional time as a
surveyor to the site survey.
Si nce completion of the project , the invest ment in the Master Plan has yielded add itional
bendits, being the cornerstone of a successful grant application to the Laura .J ane Musser Fund in
the amount of $23,000.
8
CONCLUSIONS
The proj ect proceeded more or less as plaImed and yielded a site-plan that appears well suited to
guiding further development of the Communi ty Cent er site to bot h meet the school and
community needs whil e at the same time protecting Schmidt Creek and maximi zing ecological
benetits. Observations from the process include:
Identifying and involving all potential constituencies for the project and soliciting their
input is important to developing a plan that will have widespread support into the future.
Invol ving design professionals is helpful. Whil e local people may have a great deal of
personal investment in the project, their vision can be limited by their intimate knowledge
and experience with the site. Design professional s are better able to assimil ate input from
diverse groups and develop "win-win" approaches that can maximize benefits to groups
with diverse interests. Design professional s wi ll also be attuned to ways costs might be
minimized; in our case, an example is the development of a grading plan with no net
movement of soil off-site (whi ch is expensive); all soi l removed from certain areas is re­
used in other areas of the site.
Planning costs money, and it can be difficult to invest significant resources into planning
- the common sentiment is to want to save those resources for actual implementation. In
weighing this issue, groups should consider the leverage a good plan will provide when it
comes ti me to pursue funding for the project. Charitable organizations want to be sure
that their investments yield real results, and showi ng that the communi ty has thought
carefully about its needs and has a specific plan for implementing that vision is a
powerful argument to present in support of an application.
You need a committed core group of indi viduals that will commit the time to see the
process through. A good plan will require multiple meetings; a steering committee has to
have the "will " to see the process tlHough.
9
APPENDIX
Selected Design Drawings
10
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