River Walk project prompts in-depth meeting

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 8, 2005

After a thorough discussion by supporting and opposing sides the Demopolis City Council has chosen to table a decision on the proposed Arch Street River Walk.

The Arch Streeet Task Force, a group put together to look into the possibilities for the project came before the council with the plans they have put together since the idea came about.

However, there was another side who felt the project would be harmful to their community. The arguments against the River Walk were many. Erosion, liability, and the preservation of the bluffs were only a few items providing a roadblock for full support.

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Residents, ex-citizens and everyone in between made their way into the council chambers to make their feelings known.

Some expressed a feeling of betrayal, while others simply wished to see a historic part of their town preserved. Regardless of their views, their testimonies were heartfelt.

One of the major arguments against the River Walk came in that many felt the original plans for the River Walk had been changed.

Others felt the River Walk would be harmful to the local economy as it would lead people away from downtown, which is targeted for a revitalization project set to draw people in.

Marengo County Historical Society Operations Manager Kirk Brooker said having a River Walk leading people from the downtown are would defeat the purpose of revitalization.

“If we are trying to rebuild downtown why would we want to lead them away?” asked Brooker. “Let’s let it lead to downtown and bring them in.”

The beauty of Demopolis’s famous white bluffs was another reason many opposed the project. A major fear is that construction and the bluffs will not fit together and the result could be the destruction of what made the city famous and attractive to boaters and settlers many years ago.

Sidewalks falling below the flood plane were another issue that came up. However, supporters of the project felt measures could be taken to avoid such problems.

The project was proposed under the administration of former Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell and the past city council. Because of this the some members of the current council had not been able to follow the process from beginning to its high point at last nights meeting.

The council voted to table a final decision on the project until their second May meeting to give each member a chance to thoroughly look at the possibilities, problems, solutions and proper path to be taken.

The plan for the River Walk began with the application to the Alabama Department of Transportation to help with development. The plans included a scenic walk to begin at the north landing and follow Arch Street to the Botanical Gardens.

Some feel it was best to stop the River Walk at the Civic Center, but move the trailhead north to the Yacht Basin.