South Bend Riverfront Parks & Trails Project Plan in Place

Published Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The South Bend Parks Board has a plan of action for the Riverfront Parks and Trails project.

On Tuesday evening, the Parks Department’s consulting group — SmithGroupJJR — presented the board with its recommendation for improvements to the city’s parks and trails at a Parks Board meeting held at the O’Brien Center on E. Walter Street.

The city hired the Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR in the summer of 2016 to create a proposal for the riverfront project. The group’s plan includes renovations to Howard, Seitz, Pinhook and Leeper Parks. The plan also calls for improvements and additions to the trail system which connects them.

“This is a strong and considerate plan by a strong and considerate firm,” Parks Board member Aimee Buccellato said of the proposal.

Some of the proposed changes to Howard Park include making the ice rink into a splash area during the summer, adding a new wetland environment at the park's southwestern edge and constructing a new building at the park’s northeastern entrance.

For Seitz Park, SmithGroupJJR imagines a new building which will contain amenities and public space and a new bridge over the East Race. Notre Dame also is planning to build a hydroelectric facility on the park's southern edge.

At both Howard and Seitz Park, the city hopes to expand the walkways along the river to around 20 feet across.

North of downtown in Leeper Park, the project currently calls for the removal of the duck pond and the addition of a series of boardwalks along the river. The renovated Studebaker Fountain will also be slotted into the park’s western side if the community raises enough money for its restoration.

Parks Department Director Aaron Perri said the proposal will be formally adopted at the Parks Board’s meeting on July 17, when the “conceptual framework” will be used to guide financing and architectural plans.

As the project moves forward, Perri said the city will focus on Howard and Seitz parks, as the city already has secured $10 million for construction on those two parks and has already contracted with Alliance Architects to work on Howard Park.

In a public forum on March 3, Perri pointed to the Regional Cities grant, tax increment financing and partnerships with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and Notre Dame as sources for the $10 million.

Perri also said that the first steps towards implementing the proposal will be deconstruction at Howard Park and Notre Dame building a hydroelectric facility at Seitz Park. Perri said both parks won’t be fully ready until 2019 once construction is underway.

Following the presentation, time was allotted for public comment on the plans. Some members of the public were concerned at the proposed wetlands area in Howard Park and said that the wetlands will attract mosquitos and geese and would be a health concern.

There was also opposition to the idea of removing the duck pond from Leeper Park.

Ginny Garner-Kapsa said she understands the pond is dirty, but adding moving water and more healthy food for the ducks will improve the situation.

Other concerns included the potential theft of movable furniture and the city's access to the hydroelectric facility built by Notre Dame.

Source: South Bend Tribune

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