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Crews work to finish walking path by River

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Crews work to finish section of walking path by Grand River

Saturday, September 04, 2004

By Cami Reister

The Grand Rapids Press

Construction workers were pumping water out of a portion of the Grand River on Friday in preparation for building one of the final pieces of a walking path that will stretch between Fulton and Leonard streets.

The riverwalk has been closed north of Pearl Street during construction of the new DeVos Place ballroom, where the Welsh Auditorium once stood.

Now crews are in the riverbed there with temporary dams preparing to set 10 concrete pilings to support a boardwalk connecting the Lyon Street amphitheater and the promenade on the west side of the convention center.

"We're very excited about having that part of the riverwalk finished," said Jay Fowler, director of the Downtown Development Authority, which funded the boardwalk as part of its contribution to the convention center.

Fowler said a continuous riverwalk had been a project of the DDA for many years, and this segment was on schedule to be completed before DeVos Place came along.

"(DeVos Place) forced us to sort of wait and see how we needed to coordinate it," he said.

When the 283-foot connection is complete, people looking for a stroll can start at Fulton Street and end up at Canal Street Park, north of the Sixth Street Bridge.

And by mid-summer next year, they will be able to keep walking to Leonard Street when the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department completes construction of the riverwalk connecting the park to Leonard.

Parks Superintendent Tom Zelinski said the hope was to have that section completed this year, but logistical delays pushed back the bidding process until the fall.

"Our project is going to go bing-bang-boom once it's started because it's pretty straightforward," Zelinski said.

"If we can get a bid this fall, it will probably be about the middle part of next summer."

Dale Sommers of the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Arena Authority said May's heavy rains prevented them from getting in the river as early as they hoped, but they remain on schedule.

And while the state Department of Environmental Quality bans most river construction after Sept. 1 because of the fall salmon run, Sommers said their permit allows them to work until it's done.

"We're so close to the wall that it doesn't interfere with any movement of the river," he said.

Sommers expects the new boardwalk to be completed by the end of this year or early next, but it won't be open to walkers until the spring thaw.

The city removes railings from the riverwalk during the winter months to prevent damage from ice floes.

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