Backers remain committed to zoo in Duluth

A harbor seal at the Lake Superior Zoo

Lake Superior Zoo backers are not going quietly into that good night. The Duluth News Tribune  reports that the Lake Superior Zoological Society is taking a strong public stand against ideas that Duluth’s Fairmount Park should have a different recreational uses in the future. “We are here today to say we are committed to the zoo in Duluth, that we unanimously as the board of the Lake Superior Zoological Society, representing more than 2,000 zoo member families and 9,800 individuals, we believe in the zoo,” John Scott, president of the society’s board of directors, said Monday. The 2012 flood and the overflow of Kingsbury Creek dealt a damaging blow to the zoo. Last week, the city council was told that fixing up the zoo will cost $12 million to $16 million with an ongoing annual subsidy of between $358,000 and $518,000. Jim Filby Williams, Duluth’s director of public administration, suggested transforming the zoo into more of a park, which would cost about $10 million and require a smaller annual subsidy. 

The University of North Dakota released 1,172 public suggestions, along with accompanying commentary, to replace the university’s Fighting Sioux nickname. The suggestions [PDF] run the gamut from the predictable (Aeros, Pilots, Badlanders, etc. etc.) to the prosaic (Prairie Pride: “There is a free-spirited pride in North Dakota!”) to the snarky (Seminoles: “The NCAA obviously doesn’t have a problem with this one”) to the not-so civically minded (River Rats: “Have you seen GF when the ice starts melting and spring rains come?”) to the not entirely appropriate (Battle Axes: Might not be a good choice for the women’s teams) to the truly odd (Bassett Hounds: “Bassett hounds are great dogs with good smell. When they come out onto the ice the music can say ‘Can you smell what the hounds r cooking’?”) “We figured there would be quite a few,” UND spokesman Peter Johnson told the Grand Forks Herald. “I don’t know if anyone had a strong sense of how many, but I can’t say I’m surprised.” The submissions will be vetted by the university’s Nickname Committee using a point system to narrow the list down to three options that will be put to a public vote.

Austin had grand plans for the decrepit Oak Park Mall, but entanglements with developers forced them to walk away from the deal, writes Trey Mewes of the Austin Daily Herald.  The city wanted to spend $3.2 million to buy the Oak Park Mall and allow Hy-Vee to build a 60,000- to 90,000-square-foot grocery store on the site, but negotiations between the city and mall owners Oak Park Ltd. Partnership, as well as Younkers, Shopko, and Cinemagic 7 to get the demolition project aloft never materialized. Particularly troublesome were the negotiations with The Bon-Ton Stores, the parent company of Younkers. The company at first approved a plan that included a $250,000 incentive for Younkers to remodel as well as 18 months of free rent, but one week later the company rescinded the plan and resubmitted it with 22 new stipulations, effectively killing the deal because Hy-Vee needed to get moving on its own project either at Oak Park Mall or at its current location. The mall is now largely empty after tenants’ leases were terminated as part of the purchase agreement. A $3.2 million grant by the Hormel Foundation to buy the mall will be returned, according to city officials.

Abu Dhabi-based Bloom International Realty has been given a six-month window to convince Rochester officials it has the right stuff to develop a downtown riverfront property, reports Andrew Setterholm of the Rochester Post Bulletin. The city council entered a 180-day negotiating rights period with the developer, who envisions a phased development of structured parking, commercial retail, hotel, extended stay units and apartments along the riverfront property between Second Street Southeast and Fourth Street Southeast, according to city documents. 

A citizens group has started a recall of Willmar City Councilman Ron Christianson, according to the West Central Tribune. The group cites malfeasance and nonfeasance in office for the Ward 2 representative. Wayne Nelson, chair of the Recall Ron Committee, made the announcement during the open forum portion of Monday night’s council meeting. Nelson requested time at the May 18 council meeting to formally present a certificate of intent to recall Christianson. Christianson, 64, is co-owner of a Willmar construction company and has represented Ward 2 since 1994. Nelson did not cite the malfeasance and nonfeasance, but said the certificate will identify the reasons.

And over in Bemidji, the city council says it’s done talking about the mention of atrocities committed against Native Americans in the city’s Chief Bemidji statue project. The Bemidji Pioneer reports now that the council voted 4-3 last week to approve the language, it’s time to move on. The four plaques that accompany the statue detail the Ojibwa leader Shaynowishkung’s life, which encompasses much of the turbulent time when settlers moved west into Indian Territory. Shaynowishkung, also known as Chief Bemidji, had to negotiate his people often between starvation and outright war – both of which were tried by other tribes and neither of which were successful for the Native Americans. The plaques address this and include a quote from white trader Andrew Myrick, who famously said of starving Minnesota Indians, “Let them eat grass, or their own dung.” City council members who both supported and opposed the language on the plaques now say that it was decided in a fair, democratic manner in an open forum and now it’s time to move on. “You cannot stew over every issue,” said council member Nancy Erickson. “Although I still do not support (the plaques), I respect the vote as a democratic process. I really have nothing further to add to this, so I just wish that people would quit asking me for my comment.”

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Gail O'Hare on 05/05/2015 - 11:57 pm.

    Even the best zoos

    …should be phased out. While most are not categorically cruel, the animals live wholly unnatural lives for the pleasure of loud, gawking human beings.

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