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Attractions' true value to community are ancillary benefits

Duluth is blessed with many incredible treasures that we all can be very proud of. From the shores along the great Lake Superior, to the vast hills and ridges encompassing Skyline Drive, there is truly something for everyone to enjoy and to appreciate.

Thanks to the Duluth City Council for all of its efforts to help Spirit Mountain continue to be a premier attraction in Northeastern Minnesota. I believe it is critical to consider that the business model of Spirit Mountain cannot truly be considered a constant and self-sustaining one. The reality is, as with many such attractions, the true value to the community is measured in ancillary benefits. If you consider the folks that travel here to enjoy the amenity, and where they stay, eat, shop and hopefully return again, it is understandable that a public investment to sustain cash balance is necessary from time to time, and certainly worth every penny.

Spirit Mountain, and other such attractions, cannot and should not be solely judged on their respective balance sheets. Rather it is the role of local governments to recognize the global community value and base decisions on benefits to all of Duluth by supporting our own local economy.

State Sen. Roger Reinert and I were able to secure state bonding funds for the independent water system for its snowmaking operations, a project that is underway. That initiative will help in reducing costs to the facility, improve the environmental health of the St. Louis River and free up the much-needed municipal water supply for further economic development in the western parts of our city.

Current snowmaking operations use treated municipal water, which is not only costly to the operation, but also potentially harmful to the environment. This project will allow quicker and earlier snow development, earlier seasons and more efficient responses to temperature variations.

And while there may appear to be a snag with the railroad and easements, I hope we don't allow folks to somehow politicize that. It's simply a hurdle to overcome, and I have confidence it will be resolved as quickly as possible. To presume there is fault to assign simply is not true. Most importantly, let us not lose sight of the incredible value of this project, as we all move forward with continued and responsible redefining of the western St. Louis River corridor. Working together to find solutions is far more productive than throwing undeserved stones.

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.

Erik Simonson

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.

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