Mayor Larson: ‘No’ to lighting Aerial Lift Bridge for Ukraine

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 11:00 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN-- A flood of community emails have been sent to city council members asking that Duluth’s landmarks be lit blue and yellow in solidarity with Ukraine.

While Enger Tower was lit blue and yellow Saturday and Sunday, Mayor Emily Larson says the Aerial Lift Bridge will not be lit.

“The city has chosen to make the bridge off-limits for personal life events, political, financial, commercial, or causal gain,” Larson said in a written statement Monday.

The lights on the bridge were updated to a multi-colored LED system in March 2020 at the cost of $155,000. Before that, it would cost thousands of dollars to light the bridge for events like the Fourth of July and Ovarian Cancer Awareness.

Now, city officials say it takes hitting a button on an app in order to light the bridge.

Following the introduction of the new system, the city saw an influx in requests to turn the lights different colors to support different causes.

“These requests were and are overwhelming for staff and put us in the difficult position of determining which cause should benefit by its lighting and which should not,” said Duluth’s Chief Administrator Officer Noah Schuchman.

That surge led to the adoption of the city’s current policy.

“The city does not accept requests for lighting the historic lift bridge,” Schuchman said.

Since the adoption of that policy, the bridge has only lit up a handful of times.

In April 2020, the bridge lit up as part of the #LightitBlue campaign to recognize essential and healthcare workers.

Larson authorized the bridge changing colors in honor of graduates in 2020 as well.

It also changed colors in November 2020 when Mayor Larson lit the bridge purple for what she called “a moment of unity” during the pandemic.

It is unclear why these situations warranted exceptions to the city’s policy.

Several organizations have urged the city to reconsider its policy, including the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance which used to light up the bridge every September.

“I think lighting this bridge teal or whatever color, whatever cause can really raise the attention. It’s a big voice in the twin ports,” said Kristine Greer, Board Chair of MOCA.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, both Schuchman and the city council expressed interest in amending the policy in the near future to better accommodate these kinds of requests.

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