A proposal for a downtown pedestrian and bicycle trail along the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers is set to be discussed Wednesday by the Eau Claire Waterways and Parks Commission.
The project, dubbed the Riverwalk, would run along the east bank of the Chippewa River and south bank of the Eau Claire River from Lake Street to Dewey Street. It would pass alongside Pablo Center at the Confluence, according to city documents.
Community leaders are enthusiastic about the trail’s potential.
The Riverwalk was “an early component to the (Pablo Center) design and collaboration with the city,” said Pablo executive director Jason Jon Anderson.
“I personally feel that anything that brings more public and visitors into the epicenter of our downtown, the more we can all benefit from our creative collisions,” Anderson said. “I feel like we’ve been involved, and I look forward to the city completing that project.”
Downtown and tourism organizations praised the idea of bringing more pedestrians downtown.
“Anything that drives foot traffic down through the area, as the downtown becomes more pedestrian-friendly, more amenities are added … any type of trail system is a bonus for that area,” said Downtown Eau Claire Inc. Executive Director Aaron White.
Boosting foot traffic helps people access the waterways and downtown, Visit Eau Claire Executive Director Linda John said in an email to the Leader-Telegram.
“Overall, we are very excited about the increased energy and excitement” downtown, John said.
One section of the Riverwalk, from Haymarket Plaza to Barstow Street, has already been installed. That existing section has been a success, said Blugold Real Estate Foundation Executive Director Kimera Way.
The foundation owns the top floors of the Haymarket Landing building, next to the proposed trail.
“We think it’s wonderful to bring more people downtown by the plaza and the Pablo,” Way said.
The Riverwalk would be a concrete trail for pedestrians and bicyclists, at least 12 feet wide but wider where the trail allows. The trail next to the Pablo Center is at least 16 feet wide, according to city documents.
The commission is slated to discuss the Riverwalk’s final two sections, from Lake Street to Haymarket Plaza and from South Barstow Street to Dewey Street, at a 7 p.m. Wednesday meeting at the Central Maintenance Facility conference room, 910 Forest St.
If the trail is approved by city commissions and the city council, the project will be put out to bid, and construction would likely begin this summer or fall, Ness said.
The project’s end date depends on the weather, but Ness anticipates construction would wrap up in 2020.
Though the city does not have an official cost and has only preliminary designs for one part of the project, Ness said an early estimate for the Riverwalk trail was $1.6 million.
“Once we have the full bids back, we’ll have a better estimate of (the price),” Ness said.
The city, supplemented by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant dollars, will fund the project, Ness said.
Like nearby Phoenix Park, the Riverwalk will be designed to withstand flooding as the river rises and falls, Ness said.
The Riverwalk project has been on the city’s radar for some time, Ness said: “It’s part of the parks and open space and recreation facility plan. It’s been on the horizon for a while.”
If the project is approved, Ness expects construction activity on side streets to access the trail, but isn’t anticipating a closure of Haymarket Plaza.
Over the next several years, the city may consider adding street overlooks, decorative lighting, benches and trash cans, if funding and community partnerships allow, according to the proposal.
Second trail proposed
On Wednesday the commission is also slated to discuss a proposed bicycle and pedestrian trail from Carson Park to Rod and Gun Park.
The 12-foot-wide trail would begin at Carson Park Drive, follow Half Moon Lake’s southern and western shores and eventually connect to Rod and Gun Park, according to city documents.
The city is proposing to build one section in 2019, next to the John and Fay Menard YMCA Tennis Center on Menomonie Street.
The rest of the trail would be built “in the future after input from stakeholders,” the proposal states.
Parts of the trail next to Half Moon Lake will allow for a future fishing pier and access to fishing spots.
The city would fund the project, according to the proposal.
If approved, construction is expected to begin this summer or fall.