Riverwalks Add Many Benefits to Communities

A drive through Clearfield Borough shows many changes, from the expansion of CNB Bank last year, to the streetscape project taking place on various streets and also the changes along the river for the construction of new buildings and a one-mile riverwalk loop.

These changes have not been without controversy and comment. The riverwalk especially has had supporters and detractors, as well as those willing to take a wait-and-see approach.

For many, the concept of a riverwalk is a new idea, but these special walkways along rivers have been cropping up across the United States, and even in other countries, for some years now.  They are an important feature of many major cities, including Pittsburgh, Chicago, Reno, Savannah and San Antonio.

Smaller towns are joining in, finding that the riverwalks benefit the local community in many ways.  In addition to improving the scenic value of the river, it attracts individuals and families to more outdoor activities, attracts the community to public spaces for small and large events and also improves the community with rising property values and increased business opportunities.

In an interview with GANT, Johnette Isham, executive director of RealizeBradenton, discussed the riverwalk project recently completed in downtown Bradenton, Fla.

According to Isham, in 2012, the people of Bradenton, Fla. opened their own riverwalk, a 1.5-mile linear walk along the Manatee River, and since then the community has witnessed the outstanding results of a well-planned and beautifully laid out riverwalk.

RealizeBradenton, she said, took on the monumental task after 60 years of stops and starts on a riverwalk, a project known by locals as “the sand pile.”

RealizeBradenton is a non-profit that “brings people together to create a more vibrant, attractive and prosperous Bradenton area for residents, visitors and businesses.”

Isham said they brought together residents of all stripes, families, artists, businesspeople and so on, to create the walk, which is one of the longest in Florida.  These people gave input on what they wanted to see.  After about 10 months of planning, it took nine months to bring it all to fruition through the $6.2 million project, she said.

According to her, RealizeBradenton manages events for the riverwalk, and there are 200 events scheduled throughout the year, the biggest being the Bradenton Blues Festival. The city has seen visitors from 30 states, five countries and 225 Florida ZIP codes.

Isham says the riverwalk provides a great physical space for this and other events.  The walk includes grassy areas for picnics, exercise or to sit and relax, a splash fountain, botanical garden, fishing pier, amphitheater, outdoor living rooms and more.

The Bradenton Riverwalk Before and After (Photos provided by RealizeBradenton.)

The Bradenton Riverwalk Before and After (Photos courtesy of RealizeBradenton.)

Isham said as a result of their efforts, national data indicates that property values have “increased astronomically.” According to information from Bradenton’s newspaper, the Bradenton Herald, property values are expected to rise 8.1 percent from 2015-16 and have seen similar rises in recent years.

Ultimately, the success of the riverwalk is due to the community coming together, Isham said.  She said that it takes a positive approach and working on drawing out the best in the community, bringing people together and bringing talk into action.

She noted RealizeBradenton has been recognized by the Knight Foundation for their efforts.  The organization was one of 32 applicants to receive funding for their initiative out of thousands of applications.  RealizeBradenton, she said, has also been recognized nationally for bringing diverse people together to get something done.

In Clearfield, the riverfront redevelopment project will consist of a one-mile riverwalk loop. The riverwalk will connect the Nichols and Market Street Bridges. There will be a public park at the former Novey property.

Also, the project includes the development of a hotel on the former Tool Shed property on the west side of the river and a restaurant/office building on the east side of the river along Water Street.

Clearfield Borough received a $5 million Redevelopment Capital Assistance Grant for the riverwalk project. The borough hired Clearly Ahead Development of Clearfield as developer for the project after dealings with a prior developer fell through.

(Provided by Clearly Ahead Development)

(Graphic courtesy of Clearly Ahead Development)

Clearfield Revitalization Corp. Main Street Manager Loretta Wagner is one of those excited about the prospect of Clearfield’s riverwalk.

She said it will make Clearfield a more walkable community.  She noted the town is popular now for walking, but this will provide another avenue in the downtown area for walking and other exercise, and is also safer for most people.

She said she hopes that this will boost health awareness, not just for walking but for other activities, much as what has happened with the oval at the Driving Park.

Additionally, she can see the economic benefits.  Having a one-mile track around the river will bring more people to the downtown area.

She noted one of the features planned is a park with an amphitheater at the old Novey’s site, where concerts and other events can and will be planned, and this is only a small part of what is being planned for the riverwalk.

Perspective of Clearfield's Riverfront Park (Provided by Clearly Ahead Development)

Perspective of Clearfield’s Riverfront Park (Provided by Clearly Ahead Development)

Wagner noted that with events focused on the riverwalk and downtown, it will attract tourists to the downtown as well. “I’m really excited,” Wagner said.

Another benefit is improving the overall look around the river, something people are already commenting on as work progresses.  She added that she knows change is difficult, but she hopes that people will realize that sometimes change is a good thing, and this is being done to help the community as a whole.

Holly Komonczi, executive director of Visit Clearfield County, the county’s recreation and tourism agency, said the riverwalk will be a great asset to the community by bringing people to the downtown area.  “It’s a brilliant project,” she said, and a wonderful asset for both local people and visitors alike.

She said she envisions the advantages as something of a hub and spoke.  The riverwalk being the hub from which other tourism businesses can branch out from.  Additionally, as the riverwalk is completed, she said she hopes it gives people a sense of pride for the beauty of their town and enthusiasm for sharing that with other people.


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5 thoughts on “Riverwalks Add Many Benefits to Communities

  1. beenthere

    Example – Bellefonte, Tallyrand Park, visited quite often, oh yea, beside a working railroad.
    question – what would you propose to have for young people? that is a true question and a big one. What would the young people like. I am with you we need to figure out that question.

  2. boptherabbit

    A riverwalk by a working railroad track, in an area that is not visited much by tourist or residents ( other than maybe those that live beside or near it ). Wow! What a great use of money in a town that doesn’t’t have much to offer to its young people or those looking to make a living in the area. What genius came up with this idea? Who is profiting from this? Surely not the main population of Clearfield.

  3. beenthere

    So we can not use tax money to create competition? PADOT, Cen-Clear, Clarion, Penn State to name four that are in direct competition with private industry, all in which PA taxes support. Clarion University just constructed apartments and made it mandatory that ALL Freshman and Sophomores must live and pay their rent (unless they are commuting).
    I Have also been to Pittsburgh (weekly), Chicago and Bredenton and agree we will not see the exact same results. However, have you been to Wellsboro, PA, Ellicotville, NY? they also will not be the same as the aforementioned but both of these places have a “clean” nostalgic but modern look that entices. The era of “malls’ and suburb america is changing and moving back to the “towns” and shopping downtown.
    Economic development IS for the good of the community. Without development we will continue to be a losing/working population here in Clearfield.
    We already have handouts for the” good of the people,” without economic development, it’s called welfare and look at how that is working.
    As far as the river walk I trust that our borough will take pride in keeping the river walk in good, clean condition.

  4. mirum52

    Yes the riverwalk is going to look nice for how long who knows as Mr. Waver commented I do not Believe Grant Money should be used for retail purposes. I recently saw an article that said that there are some funds left over and possible uses could be used to improve the downtown area. Why not use these funds to fix the streets in Clearfield? If they are not repaired soon Clearfield will be looking at major construction of the streets. Spruce Street is probably one of the most traveled streets in town and only received a patch in front of the old FCI Building I have worked in the constriction industry for 42 years and have never seen a project left in such condition. in a nutshell no one want to come to Clearfield only to have their front end realigned

  5. Fred Weaver

    Hi GANT!

    While I can only speak for myself and the consensus from business and property owners I’m familiar with, I don’t believe there’s much (or any) opposition to development of a Clearfield Riverwalk park. It’s a great thing to beautify the riverfront area! I live a block and a half away, so it will greatly improve my immediate neighborhood.

    I’m sure I’m labeled as a detractor. I’m not. I’m simply sticking up for the rights of property owners. The problem stems from the use of government money for a project that creates a commercial building that provides competition to those who are the owners of existing vacant spaces. How is it fair that others have to struggle to make a living, but Clearly Ahead is given $5 Million in welfare money to create competition for those struggling? This is big, bloated government at its worst — rewarding a corporation for simply having money, prompting them to compete with ordinary citizens.

    For the record, I have been to Pittsburgh, Chicago, Savannah, San Antonio and Bradenton, so I have a pretty good handle on what they are like. I can say with certainty that none of those places are economically or demographically similar to Clearfield, so to expect the same results from the development is fairly unrealistic. That said… using grant money to improve things for our citizens, even if completely pointless in terms of economic development, is a good thing. The problem is when that money is used in a project that steps on citizens’ rights, or when violence is used to silence opposition.

    Fred Weaver

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