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Fredericksburg City Council members weigh in on Riverfront Park.
YOUR Dec. 14 editorial “A park, stalled” chastised the Fredericksburg City Council for hesitating to move forward with a new concept for the planned Riverfront Park. Referencing previous design efforts, the editorial lamented that the park “seemed destined to remain in perpetual purgatory.”
Ignored was the fact that City Council supports moving forward with Riverfront Park. But, as stewards of taxpayers’ money, the council believes that process needs to be done responsibly. Two questions arise. (1) How did the city reach the current situation?
(2) How can it move this project forward successfully?
In the past, consultants were hired to develop concepts, not a design, for Riverfront Park. The latest study (2007) cost roughly $35,000. Like its 1982 predecessor, this plan was not implemented due to issues involving the Rappahannock flood plain, the Chesapeake Bay Act, the Corps of Engineers, and so on. By addressing these issues before investing in a third conceptual plan, the council hopes to ensure the ability to escape “perpetual purgatory.” Additionally, we will make better-informed decisions.
Upon acquiring the Wings on the Water restaurant, the city had a chance to lease the building as a restaurant and also the deck overlooking the river. Until the city was ready to develop the riverfront, these amenities could have brought revenue and visitors to the riverfront. There had been talk of keeping the deck.
Unfortunately, the proposal was ignored because the structures had to be removed to make way for a planned amphitheater, which we later learned faces regulatory and practical hurdles.
In a similar design-flaw approach, the Virginia Central Railroad trail was delayed because the National Park Service was not brought into the planning process even though the planned trail crosses NPS land. Thus, the project was postponed as the city dealt with legal and regulatory issues.
Recognizing such issues, prior councils understood that a riverfront park was not going to include commercial attractions, but would be a “passive” setting.
Appreciating regulatory and practical limits is key to progress. Our first step should be a feasibility study to define the parameters of the park. This would not require consultants, only meetings with germane regulatory agencies-thus ensuring a park concept that could move to the design phase.