Duluth celebrated Skyline Parkway’s 125th anniversary at Chester Bowl on Sunday, with free ice cream, cake and a lot of history.
“It’s been a wonderful tourist attraction from its very beginning,” Skyline historian Doug Stevens said.
According to the city of Duluth, the parkway, envisioned by William Rogers, initially connected Lincoln and Chester parks in 1891. The parkway was eventually expanded across the city, largely because of efforts from Duluth Mayor Samuel Snively.
“People don’t know it was built for horse and carriage, not cars,” Stevens said. “Skyline is still a free tourist attraction, and there’s a lot that this parkway offers you. … I learned all this history and was so amazed by all these pioneers,” Stevens said. “They were so far ahead of their time. They knew how fast green spaces could leave when they came from the East Coast.”
Glensheen director and former city councilor Dan Hartman credits Skyline Parkway as one of his reasons for choosing to live in Duluth.
“Skyline shows off Duluth’s incredible natural beauty,” Hartman said.
“I moved here in 1996, and I loved it,” said Skyline Parkway resident Peggy Marrin. “It’s a gem. A jewel of the area.”
Duluth City Council President Zack Filipovich and former city councilor Sharla Gardner shared experiences of growing up in the area.
“The views from Skyline are so magnificent,” said Filipovich. “They are the best in the city.”
“Skyline Parkway meant a lot to a lot of us,” Gardner said. “I had my first kiss here. I learned to drive here.”
Hartman saw the celebration as an opportunity to not just celebrate history, but to talk about policy. “We’ve started to disconnect Skyline Parkway from our parks,” he said. “Skyline is here to connect the parks together.”
In the past 60 years, parks have been established without a grand overall vision, he said. “Skyline Parkway was meant to be a connector. It’s very easy to react to the next opportunity. It’s time for us as a community to start being thoughtful.”
According to Stevens, there is a plan to treat Skyline Parkway itself as a park. It is on the city’s park listings. Stevens hopes this will mean more maintenance for the parkway itself.
“A lot of the views are blocked,” Stevens said. “We want to help with the tree thinnings on the parkway so you can see what you used to see.”
Just like the road itself, the event was free and open to the community.
“The parkway was built for everyone to enjoy. Not for the rich or the poor, but for all of us,” Stevens said. “I wanted a celebration to be open for everyone. … We need to keep the history alive. Events like this make people aware.”
Written By Kier Zimmerman for the Duluth News Tribune.