You might have noticed some changes along the River Walk lately.
Since last fall The Community Foundation has been busy improving and repairing the popular waterfront walkway, bidding farewell to the River Rat building and addressing the increasing threat of erosion from rising water levels.
This summer, in the River Rat’s place, the development of a new Blue Water River Walk Garden is underway. St. Clair Landscape & Irrigation has been hard at work transforming the space, adding rock walls and brick pavers, to create a welcoming space for those looking to enjoy the plants and wildlife along the river.
This isn’t the first time the Foundation has collaborated with St. Clair Landscape in ‘placemaking’ efforts. The partnership goes back to 2015, and St. Clair’s Riverview Plaza courtyard project. Since then the local landscape company has been called on for various River Walk projects including stoning, replacing the roping along the walkway, addressing erosion problems, and installing patios.
“It has been my pleasure working with the Foundation over the years on so many great projects,” St. Clair Landscape owner, Matt McCartney said. “Seeing the improvement in these spaces, while helping to keep it natural, and giving people a place to go… we’ve really enjoyed being a part of that. Just look at the River Walk, the St. Clair Plaza, those spaces are beautiful now.”
St. Clair Landscape is one of many businesses that were affected by the shutdown and restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming back to work is an adjustment for these businesses as they adapt to new requirements and implement new safety procedures. But businesses are adapting and making it work to serve eager customers in the Blue Water area.
McCartney said he and his employees are happy to back since the restrictions have been lifted. “It’s great to be back to work,” said McCartney. “COVID has certainly been a game changer for us. We are working to limit exposure and make sure we maintain the health and safety of our employees, but we are definitely grateful to be back doing what we love, helping improve and create places for people to enjoy.”
The new River Walk Garden will feature the beautiful new brick paver patio and rock retaining wall, as well as a pergola to cover the patio, new trees, flowers, shrubs and native grasses, and a new piece of public art. This updated space is made possible through generous donors, including Geof and Jenifer Kusch who kicked off the effort with a lead gift from their Kusch Family Fund for the project.
The Kusches have a long history of giving to help keep the River Walk safe and beautiful, providing support on specific projects such as erosion and security, as well as contributions to the endowment fund to help ensure the shoreline trail lasts for generations to come.
“The River Walk is an invaluable amenity to our region,” said Geof Kusch. “We have enjoyed using the trail with our family over the years- with its beautiful waterfront view, surrounded by the natural habitat. We have been pleased to give toward the work being done to maintain and improve the walkway, and to support our local businesses like St. Clair Landscape.”
The new garden will be a great addition to the other amenities of the River Walk the Foundation has added or maintained over the years, including the large fireplace, ferry dock, outdoor classroom and several public art installations.
“We love being a part of the placemaking that the Foundation makes possible. Helping to improve our spaces, highlighting our natural attractions and providing a place to go, draws people in to our community. This is a great place to live and developing these spaces helps to showcase that.”