Saturday, August 2, 2003

N.Ky. planning $13M river walk

Path would link growing number of attractions, city officials say

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Artist's rendering of a proposed park for festivals on the riverfront just north of the Newport Aquarium.
(Enquirer file photo)
| ZOOM |
COVINGTON - Northern Kentucky's river cities are seeking $3.75 million for the first phase of a $13 million river walk that would link the region's growing Ohio Riverfront attractions .

Three miles of river walk with protective sea walls initially would extend from the planned $40 million Harbor Greene mixed-use development in Bellevue west to Covington Landing, leaders of Northern Kentucky's river cities said Friday.

Ultimately, they hope to extend the 10-foot-wide concrete path for walking, jogging and skating from the eastern edge of Fort Thomas to the Ludlow-Bromley border.

Representatives of Southbank Partners, a group that promotes economic development along Northern Kentucky's riverfront, said the "Riverfront Commons" area that the river walk would link is projected to draw more than 6 million visitors a year.

"I feel that residents, patrons, tenants and the general public would all benefit from the development of a pedestrian link to Riverboat Row, the Purple People Bridge, Newport on the Levee and Covington Landing,'' said Bellevue Mayor Jack Meyer. "In addition, it'll make it easier to go over to the Cincinnati side and take in a ballgame.''

During a cruise along the Ohio River on Friday, elected officials in Covington, Newport and Bellevue pointed to nearly $55 million in riverfront improvements now under way or planned.

Besides Bellevue's Harbor Greene development, projects include murals along Covington's floodwall and a riverfront park for Newport festivals.

Leaders of Northern Kentucky's river cities and Southbank Partners said U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning and U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas recently expressed support for the river walk and surrounding Riverfront Commons area, while stopping short of a funding commitment.

"They're very excited about the project, and they love the fact that we're united in the effort,'' said Newport City Manager Phil Ciafardini. "Obviously, with the overall economy and the priority of funds for a lot of other projects, they couldn't make any commitments, but we're very encouraged by their response and receptiveness to our request."

Kentucky House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, said state officials also are considering funding requests for the river walk project.

"We're working on it, but there's nothing definitive yet,'' Callahan said.

Supporters of the Riverfront Commons area also plan to seek funding for the project from private-sector sponsors, said Wally Pagan, president of Southbank Partners.

Ciafardini said Callahan was instrumental in securing $850,000 in federal money for Newport Festival Park just north of the Newport Aquarium on the riverfront.

The federal money will be combined with $200,000 in city funds to help develop a park featuring a permanent stage for concerts, festivals and plays.

The terraced park also would include electrical hookups for festival booths and the stage, drainage improvements and docking for riverboats.

Newport officials already have used part of that money to build a staircase and ramp for handicapped visitors that links the aquarium and levee area with the festival area on the riverfront, Ciafardini said.

Both opened on July 25, just in time for Newport's annual Arts and Music Festival.

"The next thing you'll see is the (sea) wall along the river's edge and the river walk, which we anticipate getting started this fall,'' Ciafardini said.


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N.Ky. planning $13M river walk