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Plans for Muscatine riverfront are coming into focus
Riverfront study

Plans for Muscatine riverfront are coming into focus

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riverfront meeting

University of Iowa graduate student Caitlin Shanahan, right, explains concepts for improvements at Riverside Park to Fourth Ward Council Member Bob Bynum (far left) and his wife Bobbie (left). Adam Thompson, Planning & Community Development Coordinator for the city, is in the background.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — From arts, to fitness, to fauna, Muscatine residents and leaders were treated to three different visions for the future of the Mucatine riverfront on Saturday.

They were on display at the Pearl City Station at the park Saturday afternoon as part of a project for a group of University of Iowa students with its School of Urban and Regional Planning. The public presentation for residents at the station was intended to continue the process of gathering more information about residential interest in improvements to the park.

"We want to see what residents want to see," said Caitlin Shanahan, a member of the U of I team.

The three concept plans were based off, in part, an online and paper survey the group conducted from November through January. Around 300 residents eventually responded, giving their ideas on improvements to Riverside Park. The student team also used data gathered at Riverside Park regarding resident usage of its current facilities as additional feedback. Shanahan said the plans and ideas are intended to build off the park improvements that already have been made over the past several years.

The group then gathered these ideas into three separate proposals, based on different themes. These included:

  • The Arts & Industry Riverfront, which emphasized the expansion of arts and entertainment facilities and using locally produced building materials in creating the improvements, Chen said. Some of the improvements in this plan included an updated musical performance area and a sculpture area.
  • The Fitness Riverfront, which emphasized expanded recreational and outdoors activities. Elements of this plan included expanded walkways and trails and an improved sports activity area.
  • The Working Ecosystem Riverfront, which emphasized the use of natural fauna species and elements to create an environmentally sound riverfront area. Some of the elements of this plan included a raised walking area through natural wetlands and a sunken amphitheater not using above-ground structures.

The public event was just the latest portion of a program that the students, who include Shanahan, Adnya Sarasmita, Xiaoden Chen, Heather Millway and Xiaomei Xu, have been working on since August of last year.

The School of Urban and Regional Planning is a two-year program for those entering the municipal and area planning fields, said Chuck Connerly, director for the school, who attended the public presentation. The students, who are working toward their master degree, have one year of mainly classroom work, then spend the last year on fieldwork with a major project.

"We're training them to be practical planners and how to do all of that work," he said.

Visiting residents had the opportunity to leave comments about which of the concepts they were interested in the most, or which individual elements they were interested in. By the middle of their public forum, at least 40 residents had a chance to meet with the team.

"It's great," said Millway. "We needed the input."

Eventually, the group will take this additional input and put together a final program, which will likely incorporate items from all three concepts, Shanahan said. The final proposed plan, which will include suggestions for grant funding and other funding sources, will be presented to the Muscatine City Council by May.

"It's ultimately up to the residents and the city," Shanahan said.

Those who attended the event said they were impressed with the ideas.

"It's all positive growth for the city of Muscatine," said Fourth Ward Council Member Bob Bynum.

"The creativity and thoughtfulness that's been demonstrated here has been impressive," said Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Greg Jenkins.

Karen Schaub, Muscatine, said she often walks the Riverside Park trails with her husband John.

"It was exciting to know that they were going to be doing this," she said. She and her husband said they were particularly interested in the improved concert venues, fitness options, and an idea to more closely connect Iowa Avenue as the entryway into the park.

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