Thursday, July 20, 2006


Tony pointed me to a Star story about plans to make Berkley Riverfront Park better.

But the story fails to mention that this is the fourth or fifth design for the park since 1987. I wrote about this park almost four years ago. When the story came out, the Port Authority Director Pat Sterritt complained to me (in a very nice way; he's a super nice guy) that I didn't pay enough attention to all the positive things that were happening down there on the riverfront. And it's true. Near the end of the article I cavalierly tossed in these details:
Other ideas hatched years ago are finally beginning to crystallize. A few weeks ago, Port Authority officials cut the ribbon on a hip-looking pedestrian walkway stretching over the river's edge. It cost a little more than $4 million to build and was paid for with money from the casino lease, an insurance settlement and several state and federal grants.

By next summer, that bridge is supposed to be connected to Berkley Park by a serpentine bike path, promises Sterrett. (It will cost $908,000 and be paid for with city and federal funds.) In between, on a lot overrun with cracked asphalt and tall weeds, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to use $2.8 million in federal funds to create a wetlands with ponds and footpaths, also expected to be open by next summer. And Port Authority officials hope to announce in a few weeks the long-awaited addition of a boat ramp downstream.

And, yes, four years later, there is a bike path between the bridge and the park. But it has been blocked off by a locked gate every time I've been down there in the last three years.

And the wetlands? Nope. It's still a field of cement with stubborn weeds popping out here and there.

I'm not sure, but I don't think there's a boat ramp either.

But here's the thing I really don't get. When I wrote my story, I revealed that three separate design companies had proposed an amphitheater, the most recent being Kansas City's Bucher, Willis & Ratliff, in 2000. This Star story says the newest design was "prepared by Civitas Inc. of Denver and Atelier Dreiseitl, a German firm."

I'm beginning to suspect that this park is less about being a park than it is about providing pretty "we're making progress" pictures to the Star. Which would be fine, I guess, if those pretty pictures didn't cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if it didn't mean we're not even as cool as Davenport, Iowa, when it comes to embracing our riverfront.


trAcy said...

i remember the ribbon cutting for the boat ramp (to which i didn't go), so it may be mythical still, but i did talk to some parks guy about it. it's somewhere rather "nowhere," is all i gathered (which is why i didn't go, coupled with the fact that few people around here have boats).

ginak said...

i know this isn't really your point, but I've been to a sailboat ramp that was built by the city and the dept. of conservation. I only know one person who uses it. Still, unless I'm thinking of some other recently built sailboat ramp on the ol' Missouri, it does exist. I think I can tell you how to get there if you're interested, though that was a couple of years ago and my directions might be vague.

Eric said...

Joe, did you go to any of the several public meetings that were part of this process? There was huge attendance. I have to say I think this time might actually work.

This group of consultants are really best in class. Forest City are the folks redeveloping the old Stapleton airport in Denver. The Germans have a great resume like the new Potsdamer Platz in Berlin and the Queens Botanical Garden in NYC.

Oh, the boat ramp did get built, but it's not in Berkley Riverfront Park It's east of the Argosy in the old Riverfront Park, and it's very well used.

ginak said...

Yes, this is the boat ramp I have visited. It's near your house if you get a hankerin' to set sail!

Also, thought I'd mention that the local architects working on the recreation center are geniuses (I'm biased, but I was their objective cheerleader long before I became biased). I'm not half as well informed as you are on the political back-story, so take this with a grain of salt, but I do feel a sense of excitement for the future of our riverfront, and it hasn't come from the Star (which I use mostly for the crossword).