De Pere Riverwalk decision

This project was started several years ago to develop a walkway, viewing pier and fishing pier that will allow us to enjoy the river more fully. The challenge with this project is that the $2 million price tag was supposed to be covered by private donations. However, the construction bids came in at over $3 million. Although a significant amount (over half) has been raised, it is well short of the new price tag.

Our city council struggled with this, basically trying to answer the question, “now what?” They had a number of options, including scrapping the project altogether. In the end, they decided to go ahead with the project, building the walkway and foot bridges now. The remainder of the project (viewing and fishing piers, and lighting) will be put off until later in 2012, which will allow more time to rebid that portion of the project, as well as to raise more private donations.

There’s no guarantee that the remainder of the project will be paid for solely by private donations. With the economy the way it is, it’s hard to commit taxpayer dollars to what might seem like a “feel good” project, especially only a few weeks after deciding to cut paid on-call firefighters from our budget. But the council did the right thing for two reasons.

First, it has been estimated that the completed riverwalk will generate $1.9 million in local revenues annually. This can’t be ignored. Even if we only reach half of that estimate, the impact is worth it. Second, the timing is critical. The forward momentum of this project has taken hold. If we don’t do this now, we may never do it. The Fox River is a gem, flowing through the middle of our city. Cheryl Detrick, De Pere Chamber of Commerce, made a good point at a recent city council meeting, saying that all we do with this river is drive over it. We need to take this opportunity to make the river more accessible to everyone.

More details are available via this Google search.

Please contact me and let me know how you feel.