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Riverwalk Edges Closer to Reality

Bradenton’s historic riverfront is undergoing a fast makeover.

Progress on the new has been progressing at a steady pace. Heavy equipment has been out at the park laying the groundwork for what comes next.

“After the first of the year, it’s all coming together in a pretty rapid explosion of activity,” said Bradenton Downtown Development Authority Director David Gustafson. “Our goal is to attract a quarter-million people annually.”

With money in the bank and contracts in hand, Gustafson is ready to create a linear park along 1.5 miles of the Manatee River. The waterfront park will stretch between the two bridges and beyond. Work should be done by mid-summer.

The concept has been around more than 30 years. But within the past 18 months the concept became a project, with amenities like a splash park, skateboard park, sand volleyball court, performance spaces, access to the river for kayaks and canoes and tie-ups for visiting boaters.

Gustafson said special attention would be paid to the needs of visiting rowing teams that participate in local races.

“We will put in temporary floating docks for major regattas,” he said. “I believe rowing will be a massive component of the bi-county area.”

Plus a large number of shaded areas are perfect for picnics, fishing or just watching the water.

Workers are tuning up heavy equipment, and stockpiling supplies and landscape materials. Jason Nelson, who works for Johnny Nelson Tire, was fixing a huge rubber tire on a front loader Tuesday.

“I used to fish here as a kid,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the Riverwalk.”

“Everybody believes in what this is going to do,” Gustafson said. “When this is done this will be an exciting community to visit. It will create energy. I think that’s really what we’re doing, we’re creating energy.”

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