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Thinking about warm weather or summer yet? How about tennis?

It may be winter, but the tennis season is just around the corner. If you live in, or near the Lakeside neighborhood and enjoy playing tennis, then you know how difficult it is to find a place to play nearby.  Many do not know of the plans that were in the works to meet this need. The Washington Square Master Plan was passed just over a year ago by the Duluth City Council for the Lakeside park. The plan includes 4-6 holes of disc golf and, you guessed it, tennis courts!

Here is the official text from the Duluth City Council:

“Resolved, that the city council hereby approves the Washington Square Mini-Master Plan and authorizes implementation of the plan as funding becomes available.”

The only things stopping the court(s) from being built are funding and neighborhood support. If you like the idea of having a neighborhood tennis court and disc golf course, then please spread the word! You can view the complete set of documents for Washington Square by clicking here. For more information, or if you would like to help, email

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40 Comment(s)

  1. I live in Lakeside, but not near Washington Park. My initial leaning is to keep the park as is. It’s a nice open green space that can be used in many ways.

    Bret | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  2. My 2 cents: Whatever you do, don’t take down any more trees. The trees are precious and they take decades to cultivate and only hours or minutes to eliminate. A few years/decades ago a harsh storm moved through this area and took out many trees. I noticed that.

    I grew up in Lester Park but not near this park. I didn’t even know it was named Washington Park until just now.

    I will defer for more information about the need for more disc golf and tennis courts as I do not really have a strong opinion about this one way or another. I do think it is good for kids to have positive activities to keep healthy and competitive (for those in sports).

    Are there other parks that might be modified to include tennis courts? For example, the “Sport court” up on E 7th Street seems like a good candidate for that. It’s on the busline and has plenty of parking if youth and families outside the neighborhood want to go there. And there’s a park that could use a facelift.

    Then again, I don’t live near either of these parks and I think the immediate neighbors point of views should probably be weighted slightly higher than those of us from other neighborhoods in these matters.

    The Project for Public Spaces in New York City works with communities worldwide to help come up with good plans and processes for developing community spaces and parks. I would recommend that supporters of this project learn more about PPS and maybe try using some of their processes to come up with a good plan that is likely to result in a public space that is used by many and where everyone who has an opinion feels like their opinion has been valued and incorporated into the process.

    JP Rennquist | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  3. is the website.

    JP Rennquist | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  4. This park is small — and in a residential neighborhood, very close to houses. Leave it as is, That neighborhood — which is two blocks away from East High cannot take any more traffic. Seriously. The idea of tennis courts there is boneheaded and breath-takingly stupid. What are you even thinking?

    Claire | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  5. P.S. I don’t live anywhere near this park. But I do drive by it all the time. Ever since East moved to 40th, the traffic in that neighborhood has reminded me of Los Angeles at rush hour. It’s awful. Let those neighbors be!

    Claire | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  6. It’s really weird to throw traffic in as a consideration. If they put in 10 tennis courts, the most traffic that could possibly result would be 20 cars. And they are not going to put in 10 courts, just one or two.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  7. Well, I think it’s weird that there are all these empty golf courses and tennis courts around town. You wanna play golf or play tennis? Why don’t you just use an existing course or court. We sure as hell don’t need one in every damn neighborhood.

    Claire | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  8. Mike, you want to play tennis? I live near the Longview Courts. I walk or drive by there every day. It’s often empty. Go for it.

    Claire | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  9. Just an FYI, this plan was approved by the Duluth City Council on 11/21/12. You can view the official approval documents by clicking “here” in the article above.

    Official text reads:

    “Resolved, that the city council hereby approves the Washington Square Mini-Master Plan and authorizes implementation of the plan as funding becomes available.”

    Mike4511 | Feb 1, 2014 | New Comment
  10. I actually live near this park. I LOVE the idea of adding the disc golf and tennis courts. It’s not a “small” park. It’s under utilized. When the disc golf went up briefly, the park had so many people using it -- it was awesome! It was what a community park should be.

    And the comment on traffic is laughable. My commute takes me approximately an additional 3 minutes with East moving to 40th. How is that comparable to LA?

    rollergirl | Feb 2, 2014 | New Comment
  11. Rollergirl, drive by at 3:20 pm, that’s when the traffic is at its very worst. Bad in the mornings, but 3:20-3:45 is absolutely insane.

    Claire | Feb 2, 2014 | New Comment
  12. I think the neighbors should have the final say about this change to the park. It will impact them. As for traffic, hopefully since this is a neighborhood park, people will bike or walk to the park so traffic won’t be too much of a problem. Now, regarding the mess around East -- that is something the city council should be addressing; it’s dangerous and impacts a lot of people.

    pats | Feb 2, 2014 | New Comment
  13. This park was chosen to build the tennis courts at because of its relative location to the Lakewalk and DTA bus stop. There is also a parking lot already located at the park.

    Mike4511 | Feb 2, 2014 | New Comment
  14. I don’t live near this park at all, so I don’t really know if it is underutilized, as rollergirl claims. I do know that there are Tennis courts at Longview, and they are more often that not empty. And, as for the park, it’s not just the courts themselves, it’s the lighting, building changing rooms, etc., etc. I just think it’s too much for a little park — that has like three or four parking spaces, by the way, the rest of the neighborhood is resident permit parking only.

    I’ve heard something about the neighborhood being very much against this development. After what they went through with East being located there, I say treat their wishes with some respect.

    Claire | Feb 2, 2014 | New Comment
  15. Re traffic around East. It is a disaster waiting to happen, especially when you have so many inexperienced teen drivers added to the mix. A week or so ago, there was an accident on London near 40th at rush hour, which is when buses are dropping off kids and so are parents. Traffic was diverted off London to Superior. It was ridiculous. I had to go east on London and then detoured up the hill to get home. What usually took 10 mins took 30. If I’d stayed on Superior, it might have taken even longer.

    Claire | Feb 2, 2014 | New Comment
  16. On the park:
    I live a few blocks from here. When my kids were littler we used to spend a lot of time at that playground. I support the idea of tennis courts in Lakeside. Yes, we can go to Longview, but frankly I’d rather not drive there. From ~40th it isn’t that far, but from 60th it is a hike.

    I think there’s parking for more than 3 cars — the parking on regent is now diagonal parking. But since most of the use is folks from the neighborhood frankly unless soccer is going on, there’s no need. Also tennis is a summer thing in Duluth, the parking permit thing probably won’t conflict.

    On traffic and east:
    I think the design is horrible. It is only a few minutes a day, but they should have made a way for cars to move off 40th, drive around the school to drop off/pick up and then move back into traffic.

    Planning ahead helps a great deal. Living near 45th and superior we don’t find the traffic as bad as some of you all think. Maybe we’re just good at recalling what we lived with pre-duluth.

    kerc | Feb 2, 2014 | New Comment
  17. Sorry for the threadjack, but can someone explain to me why so many parents of EHS students are dropping off/picking up their kids anyway? This seems to be a newer phenomenon in Duluth that did not exist when I was in high school.

    Barrett Chase | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  18. I’m guessing it’s not so much that parents are dropping kids off as it is that more kids have cars of their own these days, combined with the expanded boundary of the school, so more kids are coming from farther away, along with the new location of the high school being closer to a major thoroughfare.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  19. The point about kids coming from longer distances makes sense. I guess it was kerc’s comment about dropping off/picking up, combined with the army of parents I see dropping off and picking up their kids at Laura MacArthur Elementary, that led me to believe the traffic was caused by parents, not kids.

    Switching back to the tennis discussion, if other tennis courts in the city are generally underused, I can’t see why this particular tennis court would create a traffic problem, especially when you consider, as others have pointed out, that tennis is a summer sport. Even during the school year, I think it wouldn’t take tennis players long to learn to avoid the park during the brief windows of traffic in that neighborhood.

    Barrett Chase | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  20. I am one of those parents dropping off and picking up my kid from school. There’s just the one bus she has to take at a certain time each way, and if she has something going on at “zero hour” or an early morning meeting of one of the organizations she belongs to, ix-nay re taking the bus. Same for after school. If she misses the bus she is assigned to b/c she has to talk to a teacher or has an after-school meeting, she is up a creek, since the school is 2 miles away from our house. It wasn’t like when we were kids, Barrett, and could walk to and from school. At least I could walk to and from school and did so every day. Joel says when he was in high school, there was the bus that left after school and then a bus that left later on, to accommodate kids with after school activities. No such luck here.

    Re the tennis courts. I like the way they did it at Longview. It fits in with the neighborhood and doesn’t seem obtrusive. I actually have a friend who lives much closer to Longview than I do, and will have to ask her. Re Washington Square Park, I just don’t think it works in an already congested neighborhood to pave that green space, install changing rooms, and of course add lighting. We drove by it last night, and it just seems like it would overwhelm the green space. I don’t know much about disc golf, so I won’t comment on that. Joel was saying he didn’t think disc gold would work there either, but he knows more about that sport than I do. I just think there could be ways to better utilize that green space without overwhelming it with tennis courts. And I would feel the same way about Portland Square Park — which we used often when my daughter was a toddler. I think if you added a play area like you have at Portland and some picnic tables, maybe a bocce area, which I’ve seen in urban parks elsewhere, it’d have such a lesser impact on the park and on the neighborhood than flying frisbees and tennis balls.

    Claire | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  21. Claire, I appreciate that both you and Joel do not believe the park should be developed, but I do feel this should be decided by the residents of the neighborhood. There is absolutely no shortage of untouched green space within walking distance of my Lakeside home. I, for one, would appreciate a public park that encouraged more activities and neighborhood socialization.

    rollergirl | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  22. It looks like the map above indicates one tennis court, with a space for adding a second one in the future if there is a need. There are no changing rooms, just a 12-by-12-foot shelter. Am I missing something, because it seems like a pretty minor deal to me when I look at the map?

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  23. Isn’t Longview a private tennis court?

    brian | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  24. Re Brian, my impression is that Longview is owned by the city. I’ll look at the sign outside it next time my walking takes me by there to confirm its ownership. I really don’t think it’s private.

    Re Rollergirl … when the most vocal supporter of the proposed tennis courts writes, “The only things stopping the court(s) from being built are funding and neighborhood support,” I assume then that there is **not** support for this venture by those who live nearby and respect Mike4511 for being honest in pointing this out. I am all for the residents nearby deciding how that park should be better utilized. I have friends who live around there, I’ll be sure to get their opinions on this matter.

    Re Paul, my bad. I naturally assumed there would be some kind of facility to accommodate people playing tennis. Most tennis courts I’ve ever seen have overhead lights as well as a facility where one can change, shower, pee, etc. Surprised there is no thinking about the need for a facility.

    Claire | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  25. There would be no need for lights at Washington Square for tennis because in the summer there is enough sunlight during all hours the park would be open. Most single-court parks don’t have a building. People walk over, play a few games and go home to shower.

    Longview is run by the nonprofit Duluth Friends of Tennis. Memberships are sold, which offer the benefit of reserving a court up to a week in advance, but anyone can go there and play on an open court at no cost.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  26. Longview requires a membership to reserve courts, and has pretty limited hours. I’m guessing Mike 4511 is excited about a court like what’s at Endion park -- wide open during the day and first come first served. (pun intended) There are no changing rooms or anything, it’s just a couple of courts next to the basketball court in a fenced area.

    brian | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  27. First, in reading the plans, it appears as though there is a problem with my intial concern: Do not take down any trees. Please correct me if I amreading this wrong, but it looks like about a half dozen or more existing trees would come down for this project. It also looks like more trees will be planted for a net gain, but it is not the same. You can plant more trees and get a net gain, but you cannot cut down existing, decades older trees and add a few shrubs and get a net gain IMHO.

    Next, I suggested that a broader, concensus oriented planning process is critical to this development or any public space development. This could be another one of those threadjacks, but hear me out, if enough people had been consulted and contributed to the discussion in the early planning stages on the traffic issues around East HS then maybe there could have been some alternate routing or public transit planning. It is important to think of these things ahead of time, you see?

    The Project for Public Spaces is a resource for communities around the world to use in the planning and revitalization of public spaces, or places. For some reason city planners and architects seem to like to “present” a vision rather than work on a bottom-up approach. However, the bottom-up approach produces more successful public spaces. It takes longer and it could possibly cost more, AND you give up control of the result when you invite more voices to the process, but … the upside is, once again, places that are planned by more people, that listen to minority interests (such as my concern about trees) and that take into account broader community values tend to be more successful. Once again, I urge anyone interested in advocating for this or any park to look through their processes and procedures and to use them.

    Below is a graphic that illustrates some of what they have found makes a place successful that I shamelessly cribbed from the website.

    Here is another great resource available from them for free: “Eleven Principles for Creating Great Community Spaces” (online at

    JP Rennquist | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  28. The image didn’t work, but here is the page for “What makes a successful place?” that I retrieved it from

    JP Rennquist | Feb 3, 2014 | New Comment
  29. Asked a friend of mine who lives near this park what the story is. She says she feels that the city is trying to ram it down the neighborhood’s throats, there is very little support for it. She also said there was a meeting about it a while back and she remembers only one person who didn’t even live nearby who supported it — b/c he didn’t want to have to drive to Longview to play tennis. I’ve urged my friend and her husband to join this PDD discussion.

    I was checking out Longview yesterday, and what is interesting to me is what a good job whoever designed it did in terms of integrating it into the neighborhood. It’s on the lower side of the street, which has a pretty steep slope. So, on the side facing 4th St, there’s a restraining wall and the fence is really not that high. On the other side, where the fence is higher, the courts face garages of houses on 3rd st. I just don’t see how there could be such a well-integrated buffer against nearby streets — and of course houses — at Washington Square Park.

    Let the neighborhood decide, as roller girl and I can both agree, but I’d really think hard before “paving over paradise,” to quote the Joni Mitchell song. Once you lose those trees, that green space, it’s gone. And, after talking to my friend who lives near the park, I’d hope the city and other supporters would listen closely to those most impacted before proceeding.

    Claire | Feb 4, 2014 | New Comment
  30. The plan doesn’t seem forced or sinister. Public meetings about this park’s mini-master plan were held on 6/6/12 and 7/25/12. Letters were mailed to neighbors twice inviting comments and to attend meetings in September and November. Parks Commission voted for it 9-1. City Council later approved. All of that was public. All is in context of the City’s parks master plan (which was also done publicly).

    Nick L | Feb 4, 2014 | New Comment
  31. Harmon Killebrew’s father once explained to his wife when she complained about the kids messing up the lawn “We aren’t raising grass, we are raising children” Please think about that when you care about a tree more then a place for people to grow up healthy.

    It’s very embarrassing to live in a place with such few tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields etc. The kids of Lakeside have close to nothing and they clearly can’t drive all over town looking for a tennis court etc. The basketball court at Portman is unusable and they don’t even take away the hockey boards anymore, the softball field there is unusable for anyone over 8 to 10 years old as foul balls hit parked cars behind the first base line. So Lakeside has in the end a small grass field on 54th and that is all. That’s sad. Very, very sad.

    It’s extremely difficult to explain to someone who grew up in Duluth that everywhere else in the state the schools and neighborhoods have public baseball fields, softball fields, Football fields, Basketball courts and yes they even make room for a small tennis court but all I hear is what does that have to do with hockey and my dog likes peeing on trees.

    Sorry to be a bit rude but this has been bugging me for years. I have a degree in physical education and would say tennis is the greatest game for developing a healthy human body. You’re legs need to move in every possible direction including jumping, you use all possible movements of at least one arm and hand eye coordination is greatly improved.

    Please, please, please don’t think about yourself when writing about the proposed tennis court and try to think about how it will help others physically grow healthier as humans.

    Chilly | Feb 5, 2014 | New Comment
  32. Feel it would be wiser to put a tennis court in Russell Square that is a few blocks away.

    Chilly | Feb 5, 2014 | New Comment
  33. My recommendation for Lakeside would be to plan a tennis court in Russell Square parallel to Jay St with 1-2 parking spaces if possible but not important, repave and redo the basketball court at Portman and paint free and 3 point lines, build a small batting cage in Grosvenor Square with a bullpen next to it, put in AstroTurf on the softball field in Portman and improve the fences for game play (that’s a clear financial stretch), and then build a very difficult discgolf course in Manchester Square that requires the cutting down the fewest trees possible. South side of 40th and Dodge also has many possibilities and could solve many problems but not sure who has the title to the property.

    Problems I have with the Washington Square proposal is tennis balls and frisbees ending up on Superior street. Only the hole parallel to Superior st is in danger of this and feel needs to addressed and the way the tennis court is positioned know tennis balls will end up crossing Superior st as well. It’s clear Lakeside desperately deserves these courts and things but where and how I feel should be more closely looked at.

    Chilly | Feb 5, 2014 | New Comment
  34. It sounds like there is some dispute over whether or not the neighbors have really been involved in the process or not. Just because a meeting is public doesn’t mean that everyone with a valid opinion was at the meeting. As for the park board, I have no idea when the park board meets, how many people regularly attend those meetings? I have four kids and at least two jobs, sometimes more. I am sure that the City Council will be happy to re-visit this idea if people raise their voices in support, opposition, or caution on this project. Right now it sounds like they’ve said “find the money and neighborhood support and you can get your park.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    One thing that boosters of this project could do is to take it upon themselves to canvass the neighborhood door-to-door and explain the broad strokes of the idea and ask for input or invite people to another meeting to look at funding or alternatives. If you look at funding the plan as is, you might not get the financial support that you want. If you ask for more input and alternatives then the process might take longer. Such is life in a democracy. But imagine the alternative.

    Also, as this is a public space the neighborhood’s input is important, but it is not the only interest to consider. Parks belong to all of us. So putting up a blog post here at PDD and using other means to publicize the idea and to invite discussion and stir up support are other good moves.

    Also identifying people with defined interests and expertise to contribute to the development plan, such as Chilly would be another great idea. Is there a tennis club in the neighborhood with something to contribute? What about a disc golf league? How about gardeners and amateur foresters?

    Finally, recognizing that the end product should be something that contributes to the community’s shared values (whatever those are). I agree that there are often shockingly better equipped and staffed parks in Twin Cities suburbs than what we have in Duluth, but I believe that Duluth has the most per capita acreage of public green space in the nation. It is possible that one of our community values is that parks are relatively undeveloped and green. Maybe I don’t want my parks to look like the ones in Anoka or St. Paul. In that case maybe a better idea would be to look at improving a park that already has courts of some kind or a fenced in area, like Portman or the Sport Court, or the Hillside Community Center or a public private partnership with Longview or the school and colleges …

    I am fine with spending any available amount of money from the city’s budget on parks that are well-planned, well-managed and designed with broad community and visitor interests in mind. So far I am not hearing the case for developing this park. I am hearing the case for more tennis courts being needed.

    JP Rennquist | Feb 5, 2014 | New Comment
  35. JP, I think the park board has tried to address everything you brought up here with the Master Plan for the parks, and the specific Mini Master plans for individual parks. The Washington Square Mini Master plan has already been approved, but my experience with the Chester Bowl plan has been that just because something shows up on the map of the park, it’s not a sure thing. The funding and ongoing administration is not necessarily part of the plan, or part of the city budget, it’s more of a wish list. I can’t speak to Washington Square, but In the case of Chester Bowl, some of it will come from the Chester Bowl Improvement Club -- the group that funds and organizes the ski program and summer program. Some may come from XC ski groups or others who contributed to the wish list. The comment period for Chester Park’s Mini Master plan closed Jan 31, 2014.

    Believe me, I know it’s tough to get to meetings with kids, jobs and other, but I don’t think it’s fair to dump all the responsibility for going door to door to get the word out on these projects on the people who are trying to make them happen. As Nick L said, there were multiple public meetings, part of the larger plan for all the parks. There may be better ways to publicize the meetings, but to knock the whole process back to square one because someone with a gripe didn’t show up the first time would be a mess.

    brian | Feb 5, 2014 | New Comment
  36. Thanks Brian, I wasn’t trying to sound unreasonable, sorry. I was actually trying to be helpful, if you can believe that.

    My guess is that this development isn’t going to happen at Washington Square. Especially not if the organizers don’t bend over backwards to incorporate broad feedback and input into the process. And then, broad support is also likely to generate more funding opportunities both to do the development itself and for ongoing operations. It sounds like that’s what you have found in the Chester Bowl process.

    With everything that I know now the disk golf plan looks like it may be a good idea at this park, but I think that a better case can be made for adding tennis somewhere else. How about Portman or the old Rockridge school site? Both of those places are in decline and begging for thoughtful development and improvements.

    JP Rennquist | Feb 6, 2014 | New Comment
  37. I live about 2 blocks from Washington Square. Frankly, I think Lakeside needs a proper outdoor basketball court more than a tennis court, but I’d be supportive of this.

    When I was a kid, I lived about 1/2 mile from a park with tennis courts. It was great to ride over there on our bikes and just play. I never did learn to play tennis worth a damn, but it was precisely the kind of fun outdoor neighborhood-based sustainable activity that a lot of people claim to favor. All they’d need is a fence, some concrete, and a net--no lights, no changing space, etc.

    The Big E | Feb 6, 2014 | New Comment
  38. Grosvenor Square would be the most centrally located place for a tennis court in Lakeside. If you could imagine where the address 4916 Jay Street would be you could build a field of dreams tennis court inside the wooded area. If you leave enough trees surrounding the court the neighbors wouldn’t even know it’s there to complain about. Balls that go over the fence wouldn’t get far as they would hit trees, so no tennis balls in the streets or lawns. Feel a single tennis court doesn’t need a parking space, anyone playing tennis typically is more than happy to ride a bike or walk to the court and worse case scenario they park on the street. It would be a win for everyone I feel (excluding the tree people but honestly we do excel ten times over in the tree category). Just thinking out loud for fun.

    Chilly | Feb 7, 2014 | New Comment
  39. Thank you for your comments PDDers! Many of you have commented about the location of the courts/disk golf course. I was originally looking at making a proposal to the Parks and Rec Commission too, Chilly, to build courts at Russell Square until I found out that there were already plans that had been developed for Washington Square. The city paid a large sum of money already to have a company make these plans for Washington. The plan has also already gone through the approval process too, with public meetings etc. The city also announced a few months ago that Russell Square was one of two sites being looked at for creation of a new dog park, so I don’t know if tennis could fit there anymore. See this link from NNC:

    Two potential locations for new dog parks in Duluth

    Also, does anyone else agree that 6 holes of disk golf sounds the best so that you can play 18 if you want?

    Again, thanks for your concerns and comments.

    Mike4511 | Feb 7, 2014 | New Comment
  40. I think it’s a great idea. Can’t wait for my kids to destroy me in a match!

    Braako | Feb 9, 2014 | New Comment

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