Monday, February 27, 2012

Public Weighs in on Riverfront Park

Interested parties gathered February 23rd at City Hall for a public input workshop on the revitalization of Wilmington’s Downtown Riverfront Park. ColeJenest & Stone the land planning/urban design firm selected to develop a schematic plan for the waterfront space, welcomed attendees with great enthusiasm.

Representatives from ColeJenest & Stone and Halvorson Design Partnership (Boston based firm providing their design expertise of waterfront parks), presented a wealth of information, but the session was mostly dedicated to generating feedback and an overall community vision for how the project should materialize moving forward.

The presentation was organized and resourceful, as it gave an overview of the current status of the park, park program opportunities, and potential park designs and features. Each segment included a variety of images and illustrations from similar parks in other cities which were eagerly discussed and critiqued by participants. In one exercise, images were arranged on the walls, and attendees were even given green stickers to mark those items they would like to see incorporated in the design of Wilmington’s park. Features included lawns, gateways, shade structures, water features, signature design elements, public art, and pavilions.

The meeting then scaled down the 3000 foot view of “what could be” and a more personal conversation surfaced. What defines our park’s character? What does it currently represent? History and heritage? A celebration of the waterfront? And, more importantly, what do we want to it to be moving forward?

Public input sessions like these are crucial to public works projects. It is vital to engage people, to give them ownership and a chance to make the park authentic to the community… to make the space reflective of both Wilmington’s heritage and her future.

ColeJenest will use this feedback, coupled with input from previous stakeholder meetings, to create a master plan for all three phases of the park. Because phases two and three are dependent upon future negotiations by the City, their energies will mostly focus on the first phase. They predict that by April, the conceptual plan will be ready to present to City Council, which, upon approval, will initiate construction.

The meeting was both powerful and productive. In a way, the atmosphere and sentiment in that room was analogous to how I imagine our park to be. I was thrilled to see the number of young parents present, their young ones in tow. It was easy to envision them enjoying a Saturday afternoon…children playing in a creative fountain, ducking shoots of water soaring toward the sky, shrieking with delight. Single and married couples of all ages were also at the meeting…again, my mind wandered as I imagined Frisbees soaring next to the river, couples nuzzled on benches gazing out at the water, and passersby watching as they meander along the cobbled bricks of Water Street…makes me want to grab a double fudge ice cream cone and join them.

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