By Deborah M. Clubb
Mayor Willie Herenton on Wednesday quickly embraced two tough recommendations for the Memphis waterfront: Make Mud Island River Park free, and subdue the traffic on Riverside Drive.
Herenton joined members of three citizen focus groups and other city leaders aboard the Island Queen to hear results of the groups' discussions.
About 60 people participated in the sessions Tuesday and Wednesday organized by the mayor's Riverfront Steering Committee and funded by the Plough Foundation. They were asked to focus on solutions to development issues raised during a larger February workshop. Led by Matt Arnn of The Waterfront Center in Washington, the groups focused on solving problems related to access, docking, cobblestones, Mud Island River Park and other waterfront parks and public spaces.
All three groups concurred that the river park should not have to make money, that it should be free and easy to access.
Part of increasing access would be to ``calm Riverside Drive traffic'' and make several pedestrian crossings over it from east-west streets, the groups said.
Despite any costs, Herenton said, "Absolutely, Mud Island must become user-friendly (with) free access to families. Looking at this list, I'm excited about calming Riverside Drive traffic."
In earlier remarks, Herenton vowed to develop "the unique terrain we have on the Memphis riverfront. . . . We're going to make this happen." City Public Works Division staff explained their drawings of concepts that arose after the February discussion. The ideas included a land bridge to Mud Island from Court Street; a drawbridge and a 1,900-foot pedestrian bridge from Beale; a dock on six acres of Tom Lee Park and a new dock notched into the cobblestones.
After animated discussions, none won rousing support. But the drawbridge and dock concepts drew calls for further consideration.
The other points on which all three groups agreed were.
-- Water taxis in the harbor.
-- Continued docking of small excursion boats at the historic cobblestones.
-- Phase out automobile parking on cobblestones.
-- Add "new generation" activities to the river park.
-- Add private amenities and activities to waterfront parks, such as bike or skate rental, food vendors or a conference center hotel.
-- Upgrade design elements along the riverfront to create connections. Increase animation, security and maintenance in parks and public spaces.
The steering committee will consider the recommendations July 28. They are to present a final proposal to Herenton by year's end.
Copyright (c) 1999 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
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