jtate@bradenton.comMay 19, 2013 

Aerial looking southwest over Bradenton from river showing "The Sandpile" riverfront fill between First and Ninth streets west in the late 1960s. MANATEE COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM

Terry Thompson is at the Bradenton Riverwalk at least twice a day, and he would come more if he could.

"It's really vibrant. There is so much activity out there. It's a nice combination of active and passive things to do," said Thompson about the relaxing by the river or skating at the park.

Whether he's walking his dog or working out, Thompson said he was impressed with the city's plans and that's what prompted him to move his business, Web-tivity Design Solutions, and himself to Downtown Bradenton.

"I liked what I saw," said Thompson, 50, who is originally from Michigan and moved back to the area in 2009.

The 1.5 mile Riverwalk attracts people from all over Florida to the Friendly City. Since its opening in October of last year, people have enjoyed the many attractions of the Riverwalk, which include the 400-seat Mosaic Amphitheater, the Family Fun Zone with a colorful splash fountain and playgrounds, Fishing Pier, outdoor living rooms, the Tidal Discovery Zone, beach volley ball areas, and the Skate Park which was designed and constructed by the award-winning Team Pain Skate Parks organization.

A favorite place to visit among the youth is the professional-grade skate park. Parents enjoy taking their children to the playground and splash fountain.

Allana Luquette, 33 who brought her son and daughter to the park, likes the Family Fun Zone the most. After picking up her son from daycare in Palmetto, she heads across the bridge to the Riverwalk so her kids can let loose in the jungle gym.

"We love it here," said Luquette, who lives in Parrish, but doesn't mind driving over to Bradenton for the Riverwalk.

Sivan Hoch, who came from Miami Beach to solely visit the skate park, said that he comes almost monthly.

Hoch, a semi-pro skate boarder, said his friends helped build the park and suggested he come test out his skateboarding skills there.

"The park flows really well. I think it's awesome," said Hoch, 24. "How can I complain? It's a perfect skate park."

The city of Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston couldn't complain about the Riverwalk either. He called the outdoor entertainment area a success.

"It's been better than expected," said Poston, who is out there daily.

Poston doesn't know about future plans for the park since he and city officials are still learning how residents use the Riverwalk.

"We've thought about expanding the Riverwalk, but we will have to see how the economy haves over the next few years," Poston said.

Poston wants to keep the place looking like new. So far the city has spent much effort and money maintaining the Riverwalk.

Even with the Riverwalk still looking like new, some residents would like to see more activities and attractions added to the destination.

Terry Thompson said that having vendors who not only sell food but rent equipment for water sports would possibly drive more people to the Riverwalk.

He also said connecting the area to the Village of the Arts would make for a more eclectic Downtown Bradenton experience.

"If we can tie that with Old Main Street and Riverwalk we will have a downtown that many cities will envy," said Thompson, who also suggested added picnic tables would be convenient.

Allana Luquette said having more family friendly shows at the amphitheater would make the Riverwalk more appealing.

However, Cynthia Nunez, 21, and Destiny Dawson, 23, two friends who come to the

Riverwalk to fish or just simply relax, said that the Riverwalk doesn't need improvement or any additions.

"No it doesn't need anything. It's nice out here," said Nunez, a Bradenton resident.

Dawson fished at the pier on a Friday evening as the sun was about to set. Nunez cheered her on for finally catching a fish after they'd been there for over almost an hour. Dawson said that adding more things could attract the wrong crowd and possibly mess up her oasis.

"It's a chill place. I say leave it like it is, " said Dawson.

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