City discusses improvements for Riverside Park

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Members of the Muscatine community gathered at the Riverview Center on the evening of Wednesday, May 10 to learn about the proposed Riverside Park Master Plan.

Representatives from Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH) provided a presentation of proposed ideas for the area.

Ed Freer of SHE explained that information has been gathered from previous meetings to discuss possible ideas. Suggestions have been compiled into a master plan that is designed to be completed incrementally, as funding allows. The design is constructed such that the community and city could implement all or parts of it.

Areas of improvement that have been discussed in past meetings include several areas for community members and visitors to enjoy the space along the river.

The design team discussed the riverfront in three separate sections: west, central and east. The west portion would be downriver of the park, fountain, and Riverview Center. The east portion consists of the area upriver from the Riverview Center to the bridge. The center section includes everything in between.

Potential design elements for the west portion could include shade structures to accompany the donor benches along the bike path.

The large portion of discussion for the evening involved the potential for an amphitheater and plaza.   Many in attendance expressed support for the idea as  a potential venue for concerts and festivals.  Muscatine resident Sarah Lande expressed her approval, saying, “Music is the soul, and down by the river, what more could you want?”

Others in attendance expressed concern about a large structure breaking the line of vision or detracting from the view.

Muscatine resident Chad Bishop expressed support for the amphitheater and asked designers to consider all forms of performances in the design, along with music.

The proposed site of the amphitheater would be just downriver of the current basketball courts.

For the other end of the riverfront, proposed ideas include a concessions area, a fish cleaning station, a boat washing station, and a bike fixing station.

Along the middle, proposed ideas include a beer garden next to the Riverview Center, and a floating dock along the front side of the Pearl Station to allow boat parking.

The dock would be large enough to accommodate larger paddlewheel touring boats, allowing day travelers to disembark and visit downtown Muscatine.

A scalloped terrace is proposed for the area along the river that was formerly used as the boat landing.  A sidewalk is proposed along the side of the parking lot to connect the park and the fountain.

Freers explained the desire to give access to the water to those who choose to visit the riverfront.

Each of the designs has been developed with the rise and fall of the river level in mind. Brick, limestone, and ipe decking would be used throughout to accommodate the changes in water.

In addition to the water consideration, the designs incorporate and complement the current features of the riverfront.

No specific date is set for the improvements to begin, though Freers states he would suggest doing work incrementally, as funding and partnerships with other organizations are made available.