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[Huntington] Harris Riverfront Park

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Riverfront area in need of repair

By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald Dispatch, October 20, 2007

The Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District sees a more vibrant riverfront park, with historical artwork along running and walking trails that line the banks of the Ohio River. They see a raised walkway over the floodwall and Veterans Memorial Boulevard to Pullman Square, and a clearing of the brush and trees for a better view of the Robert C. Byrd Bridge. They also see welcome signs, a little pizzazz on the floodwall, a river and rail museum, and a skate park.

The park was created 30 years ago when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a three-phase development project that became Harris Riverfront Park. Over the course of 20 years, a marina area, an amphitheater and docking area, restrooms, and parking was added. But much of the infrastructure today is over 25 years old and is showing its age. The amphitheater has been submerged in water many times and as a result, there are rough, uneven patches along the seating area. The restrooms have aged and are now locked on a daily basis due to vandalism; they are also far too small for large events, such as Rib Fest, X-Fest and Huntington Symphony Orchestra concerts.

The tree-covered walkways have also become home to vagrants in the community. The city recently cleared what was known as "Tent City" from the riverbanks, but security issues still remain at the park. The park is also all but inaccessible from downtown -- Veterans Memorial Boulevard acts as a bypass of the downtown and there is no pedestrian control or traffic signal at the lone entrance to the park.

"After the 1937 flood and decision... to build a floodwall, what had been front door to city of Huntington became the back door. When the floodwall and war occurred, so many people turned their back on the river, and it became a place people didn't want to be around."

-Jerry Sutphin, a river historian and one-time employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Facts about Harris Riverfront Park

By Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald Dispatch, October 21, 2007

Timeline of the park's construction: (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District)

1977: The first phase of the park was completed, including a boat launch ramp, a comfort station, a designated marina area and a parking lot. The city of Huntington conveyed the property to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the cost share requirements of the Federal Water Project Recreation Act (Public Law 89-72).

1983: The second phase was completed, including an amphitheater, one additional comfort station, green space, lower walkway and associated parking areas.

1997: The final phase was completed, including parking areas, a comfort station, green space, handicap fishing access and large excursion vessel docking area, water, sewer and electrical access for large vessels and bus parking.

$6,631,700: Total estimated cost for all three phases. All three phases were a 50-50 cost share so the city of Huntington would have been responsible for $3,315,850. The city

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