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Riverfront Visionaries

New master plan offers
many ideas for developing
Madison's riverfront

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. – (October 2002) Madison’s riverfront could get a whole new look if federal funding comes through next year to initiate some of the ideas put forth in a recently released master plan funded through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ohio Riverfront

The Madison riverfront
walk looking East.

The plan presents dozens of ideas that would require extensive development of the north and south sides of Vaughn Drive, which skirts Madison’s riverfront. The plan, which cost $75,000 to produce, is part of a draft report prepared by Gulf Engineers and Consultants Inc. of Baton Rouge, La., in conjunction with the Corps.
Any action taken must first receive city approval. City officials are just now beginning to study the plan, which they received in late September. Madison Mayor Al Huntington said he has seen the plan and considers it an important step in gaining federal money to develop the riverfront.
“All the concepts they presented are intriguing, but there are a lot more steps ahead of us before we take any specific action,” Huntington said. “We certainly want as much community input as possible before we proceed, and that goes for both sides of Vaughn Drive.
Huntington added that the ideas proposed in the plan “complement what the Madison Riverfront Development Committee has already done.”
Members of the committee also had not seen the plan and do not meet again until early October. The committee has been the driving force behind riverfront beautification, resulting in walkways, overlooks and Lamplighter Park, which sits on what once was the site of a warehouse loading facility.
Gulf Engineers was contracted after $100,000 was appropriated by the U.S. Congress to study the riverfront and to develop a master plan, according to Brandon Brummett, the Corps’ project manager. Gulf Engineers was chosen to produce the plan for the project because of the company’s experience with waterfront development studies and because its was already under an “open-ended” contract with the Corps, which expedited the process.
The study was part of what Brummett called the “recon phase,” during which the Corps and the consultants collected information.
Adam Werth, senior project manager for Gulf Engineers, and Brummett traveled to Madison in July and August to speak with city officials and conduct two public forums. Many residents offered their views and ideas for developing the riverfront. Their input was used in finalizing the recommended master plan.
The plan suggests that city officials consider several ideas for upgrading the riverfront. Among them are: update public boat launches, add public boat docking facilities; build an outdoor stage area; start an open air market; add a community plaza or a cafe; promote light retail in the area; add historical interpretation areas; add a fountain; build an interpretive sculpture park.
Werth said that the plan calls for building onto what is already there with gateways, additional trails and overlooks, adding a walkway to the northside of Vaughn Drive and extending the walkway west where it will eventually meet up with the new Heritage Trail.
Tom Pritchard, president of the Heritage Trail Committee, said his group is “definitely interested in seeing that happen.” The Heritage Trail bicycling-pedestrian paved path is being completed in phases by the committee and will eventually connect Clifty Falls State Park to the riverfront. Gulf Engineers’ master plan calls for Heritage Trail to meet up with the riverfront walkway at a shelter with restrooms, drinking fountains and snack machines that will serve as a “trailhead” for both paths.
Brummett said that conducting a study and creating a master plan are part of the process that the Corps must follow when seeking federal funding for a project. Brummett compiled the results of the study and master plan into what is known as a 905-B Analysis Report, which is used by the Corps to determine the level of federal interest in a project and whether to continue with a feasibility study, the next step of the process.
Preparing the report is standard operating procedure for the Corps, Brummett said. Typically, riverfront development projects are rejected for feasibility studies by the Corps because they often center around recreational functions, which are not included in the Corps three main objectives of flood damage reduction, ecosystem restoration and navigation.
Brummett, who submitted the report to his superiors Sept. 26, said that such was the case in Madison. But Brummett was quick to point out that even though the 905-B Analysis Report does not recommend that the Corps continue with a feasibility study, it doesn’t mean that the project won’t get federal funding.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Brummett said.
The report recommends taking an approach different from the Corps’ standard procedure in obtaining federal dollars for the project. Brummett said that more than likely the project will be supported by an Indiana state legislator who will then take steps to ensure that federal funds are set aside for the project.
“We’re expecting some congressional funding (for the project) next year,” Brummett said.
The money received by the Corps for the study was secured by Sen. Evan Bayh through the Senate Appropriations Committee. According to Court Rosen, a spokesperson from Bayh’s office, the senator supports the project because it is beneficial to the area and provides a service to Hoosiers.
Rosen said that the senator will continue to support the project and seek additional funding for construction once the city determines how it will proceed.
Until the Corps’ recent involvement, Madison’s riverfront development had been funded primarily through private donations secured by the Madison Riverfront Development Committee. The committee formed in the late 1970s by citizens who wanted to beautify the riverfront. They began raising funds for the project and to date have garnered nearly $3 million through private donations, including donations of property, to create a walkway stretching nearly 8/10 mile between Vine Street and Jaycee Park beneath the Ohio River Bridge.
Committee president Gayle Crozier, a retired Madison Consolidated Schools administrator, said the committee has done as much as it can through private donations and is now hoping for federal funding to continue the project. Crozier said that so far the project has been “pay as you go,” with phases being completed as funding became available.
Crozier said that although the committee may not agree with all of the suggestions in the master plan, the plan is a beginning and can be presented to the federal government as a “foot in the door” to obtain federal funding.
A master plan has to be presented as part of the process to obtain federal money, Crozier said. With a master plan in hand, the committee “can then go to the Congress and say here’s our master plan, this is what we’ve done, this is what the people of Madison have already done, will you help us get this completed?” Crozier said.
Crozier had not yet reviewed the master plan as of late September. But he knew it was based on ideas presented at the public forums. Those ideas were not new to the committee. Crozier said that the committee had considered most of the ideas before but were concerned with feasibility and funding.
“I would say that there was very little input that we saw that was something we wouldn’t want; some of it we thought might not be feasible.”
For instance, Crozier said that the idea of a permanent boat dock at the foot of Jefferson Street, one of the suggestions that has been offered, probably wouldn’t work for the area because of the fluctuation of river levels and because of open space needed for the Madison Regatta.
Crozier said that other ideas presented, such as the addition of an entertainment area or amphitheater, were already being considered. What remains to be seen, and what will determine the scope of riverfront development, is whether Congress will approve funding. According to the master plan by Gulf Engineers, the completed riverfront project with the improvements it suggests could cost more than $7 million.
“I’m encouraged about the future of the riverfront,” Huntington said, “but we’ll have to wait and see what funding comes through and what restrictions are placed on it.”

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