BRADENTON -- Two months after officially opening to the public, Riverwalk, downtown Bradenton's multimillion dollar riverfront destination, has piqued the interest of several organizations and individuals looking to hold their events at the scenic location.
But before the calendar of events begins to fill, Bradenton city officials want a set of rules in place to protect the taxpayers' investment.
Bradenton officials met Wednesday at the Bradenton Auditorium to discuss a management system for use of the public park, which would dictate how it is used, what city services are required, criteria for event permits and fees and paid attendance.
City Council members said they've received a num
ber of inquiries for using the park as a wedding destination, among others.
"We're trying to figure out how people are going to use it," said Mayor Wayne Poston.
David Gustafson, executive director of Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority, submitted a draft proposal of policies to the City Council prior to Wednesday's meeting. The DDA has been working on the draft since April. At the meeting, council members offered comments and suggestions that will the included in a revised draft to be presented to the City Council again during a Jan. 23 meeting. If the council approves the draft, it will be adopted as a resolution.
"It's a living document that we're going to learn from," said Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, a nonprofit cultural development organization.
Though Riverwalk will be maintained by the city of Bradenton and the DDA, Ward 1 councilman and Vice Mayor Gene Gallo suggested some events should require the approval of the council, an idea that was widely accepted by other council members.
"We want to see things that will enhance our community," said Ward 2 councilwoman Marianne Barnebey. "It's not all about the mighty dollar."
Other comments from council members included support for implementing a reasonable fee for special events to cover any and all damages.
"It should be paid for by the users," said Ward 3 councilman Patrick Roff. "We should start high because we'll never be able to raise the rates. If we're too strict, we can always go back down."
The Bradenton Public Works Department is analyzing costs for cleanup expenses at Riverwalk, Gustafson said.
Guidelines in the draft include restrictions on tent stakes and amplified music and inclusion of parking plans for major events. Once a management system is in place, Gustafson said the city and DDA will move on to discussing permanent food vendors and a possible looping trolly system downtown. The trolly would be used to pick up visitors from downtown parking garages with stops at popular destinations in downtown.
Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:_1NickWilliams