IOWA CITY — Unofficially, Riverfront Crossings Park has been open in some capacity throughout its construction, which began in fall 2017.
Iowa City Parks and Recreation Director Juli Seydell Johnson said data from the fitness tracking app Strava has shown that the trail through Riverfront Crossings Park was the most heavily used in the city. As the area around the park — located on the Iowa River near the Highway 6 bridge — has developed, those numbers have only grown, Seydell Johnson said.
As work has progressed on the 17-acre park — which now features a nature playground and wetland — families have flocked to the former site of Iowa City’s wastewater treatment plant, which was relocated after the 2008 flood.
“There have been users for the park throughout construction,” Seydell Johnson said.
On Saturday, Riverfront Crossings Park gets its official grand opening.
“It is so extremely exciting,” Seydell Johnson said. “I’ll be honest, I’ve lost a lot of sleep getting this together and getting it done — in a good sort of way.”
Work on the park was done in phases, with the first phase involving the restoration of Ralston Creek, creation of the wetlands feature and connection of the trail to the nearby neighborhood. In 2018, the nature play area was constructed during the second phase.
Seydell Johnson said the park was designed to be “resilient” and protect the neighboring residential and commercial properties from flooding.
“When the river rises, the park is designed to hold that,” she said.
Construction of the park cost approximately $5.5 million with the city receiving nature play funding in the form of a $157,300 Federal Land and Water Conservation Grant, a $50,000 Disney/National Recreation & Park Foundation Grant and $42,500 in private donations, Seydell Johnson said.
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Saturday’s event starts at 3 p.m. and will feature family activities, including roller skating, kite making, face painting and inflatables until 6 p.m. Food trucks are scheduled to arrive at 5 p.m., and the event also will have a beer tent for visitors 21 and older featuring beverages from Big Grove Brewery and Sutliff Cider.
Live music from EleanorGrace will begin at 7 p.m. and continue with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at 8 p.m. The celebration is scheduled to end with a fireworks show at 10 p.m.
“It’s going to be a pretty active day, and we’re really looking forward to it,” said CheLynn Taylor, a parks and recreation intern who helped organize the event.
Despite the grand opening, more work remains to be done. Seydell Johnson said future phases will involve the relocation and reconfiguration of the Kenneth Snelson statue to the main entrance of the park, new landscaping, an additional shelter, a performance area and a second pedestrian bridge.
“This is a park that’s going to continue to develop,” she said.
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