Meet at the Rose Garden at 8am — if you’re late, nobody’s waiting around for you. Take the Lake Walk to Park Point, stopping for an occasional photo or chat with a passerby. Find your seat at the Caribou’s official Table of Knowledge, sip a hot-water beverage, work on some solutions to world problems with co-conspirators. Then, back to the Rose Garden and the rest of your day. Repeat everyday, rain or shine or frost or squall.
Fortunately for me, this morning we had a glorious day — ideal temperature with clouds perfectly painted across the sky.
Jerry Kimbal, a longtime City Planner and Duluth aficionado invited me to join his daily Lake Walk with a hearty cast of characters. The hodgepodge of retirees welcomed me with open arms, joking and winking and spinning yarns from our very first stride. (A sample: “Some of us walk everyday but on Sunday we lose our religious members.” “You know, I bet they feel the same way about the ones who aren’t in church.”)
For most of the morning, I let the conversation meander in its natural direction, which was wonderful, and at the end I got out the microphone for a few questions. Jerry, his wife June, and their friend Mary, all Lake Walkers, give a little background:
Speaking of ritual, they’re serious about hitting the lake as often as they can, regardless of weather. In fact, Mary shared a story about missing a day last week due to cold and the resulting castigation:
Their walk is a wonderful balance between two of Duluth’s greatest natural resources — views of the lake, and the colorful Duluthians using the Lake Walk:
As a retired city planner, Jerry was remarkably generous with his knowledge of almost everything in our path, from major city icons to slight details. He explained parts of the decision making process that went into developing land along the lakefront — their constant and thorough efforts to integrate their manmade plans with the landscape and existing homegrown assets. For him, the work wasn’t just about making the city livable, it was about making it sing.
Towards the end of that conversation, I asked a question about preserving the balance between our built and natural environments, hoping to tap into his personal philosophy as a city planner. His answer was perfectly straightforward:
“Well, we just tried not to screw up what we already have.”