April 9, 1889: Duluth organizes its first Board of Park Commissioners

On this day in Duluth in1889, the city organized its first Board of Park Commissioners. In March State Legislature had approved “An Act Providing for a System of Public Grounds for the City of Duluth.” This legislation created the board and gave it broad powers to acquire land, make improvements, and adopt regulations to guide the use of parks. Along with the power to condemn and take land, the board could issue bonds to borrow money for purchasing land. It could also levy special assessments on nearby property that benefited from the development of the parks and parkways. Those selected to the board on April 9 included William K. Rogers (president), John H. Upham (vice president), Frederick W. Paine (secretary-treasurer), Roger S. Munger, and Mayor J. B. Sutphin (as an ex officio member) the park board members met for the first time on May 22, 1889. They prepared a list of the land they intended to acquire, namely a narrow strip along the lakeshore and a corridor of land for a parkway (referred to then as Terrace Parkway, later Rogers Boulevard, and today as Skyline Parkway) that would extend from Chester Creek across the hillside to Miller Creek. But soon the board’s spending was getting out of hand, and City officials realized changes had to be made. They requested revisions to the legislation, which were approved on April 6, 1891. The new act narrowed the park board’s powers. All money had to remain in the hands of the city treasurer, and the city council had to approve each purchase. You can read about all of Duluth’s major historic parks in the Parks & Landmarks section of the Zenith City Archive.

The official seal of Duluth’s first Board of Park Commissioners. (Image: Zenith City Press)