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Public weighs in on Riverwalk enhancement

BRADENTON — The public’s wish list for Bradenton’s $2 million Riverwalk enhancement project includes everything from retail shops and day docks along the waterfront to outdoor venues for sporting events.

About 120 residents weighed in on what they hope to see for the Riverwalk during Thursday’s public engagement workshop hosted by Realize Bradenton and the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.

No idea was shot down. Not even the skateboard park – a potential crowd magnet.

“We need something that sizzles,” said Joan Voyles of Anna Maria as her table brainstormed their top three ideas for the project. “Something with pizzazz.”

Her table decided that more riverside restaurants, public restrooms and entertainment would do, along with increased security and lighting.

Those items were a common theme among the crowd.

Other ideas included a fitness area, a rowing facility, paddle boat rentals, multi-layered fishing piers, art-inspired shaded areas and an artist-designed water fountain — for children to splash in to escape the Florida heat.

Functional public art was a favorite with the crowd — from creative bathroom spaces to outdoor “living room” settings that serve as benches.

In fact, Ann Wykell, the DDA’s public art coordinator made an pitch to artists for upcoming art commissions, such as creating sculptures that double as bike racks to use in downtown and possibly the Riverwalk.

John and Susan Giordano, of Bradenton’s The Promenade At Riverwalk, loved the different visions for the current mile-and-a-half path.

“We’ve been following this since we moved out here three years ago,” said John Giordano, 60. “I think it’s nice the way it is, but any improvement to it that will get more people to use it will enhance it.”

His wife supported that train of thought.

“The more community involvement, the better,” she said. “It’s much more profitable for the whole community to have input from each level.”

Bill Waddill and James Pankon of the Riverwalk’s design team, Kimley-Horn, wrote down every idea. Their next move is to devise two possible designs to present to the DDA in about six weeks. The plans will then be available to the public at www.realize

The project — which is hoped to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly while spurring business for the anticipated Artisan Avenue project — is set to break ground Dec. 6.

Bradenton residents Judith Sedgeman said she’s glad to be a part of the process.

“I’ve known Braden- ton for a long time and very few times when something big is underway has the community been invited to give its own input,” she said. “I think that it’s going to make all the difference. People really feel they are being heard and it’s going to be their park.”

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057. Follow her on Twitter at @accentbradenton.

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