Detroit RiverWalk to expand after successful river remediation

This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is poised to begin construction on a new segment of its Detroit RiverWalk, following the recent completion of a multi-million-dollar federal remediation effort along the Detroit River.

Located on Detroit's riverfront, the RiverWalk is a popular promenade that regularly attracts bicyclists, pedestrians, and others who come to enjoy the scenic views and other amenities that it offers.

This past December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrapped up a $2.9 million effort to remediate an area of the Detroit River that both the U.S. and Canada had designated a toxic hot spot. Part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the effort involved placing a special cap into the river that's designed to isolate polluted material and keep it secure for hundreds of years. 

"They created a high-tech charcoal-activated blanket over the sediment in the river to lock it into place," says conservancy spokesperson Marc Pasco. "Because if you had started digging it up, some of it would have escaped and went floating down the river." 

The completion of the remediation effort allows the conservancy to kick off construction on a new section of RiverWalk along Detroit's east riverfront, along the grounds of a former Uniroyal Tire factory. 

The extension, which is expected to get underway this spring, would connect Mt. Elliott Park—where the eastern portion of the RiverWalk now ends—with Gabriel Richard Park near Belle Isle. Once completed, it will allow visitors to travel and enjoy a continuous 3.5-mile stretch along the Motor City's east riverfront.

According to Pasco, the new section will span a little under a quarter of a mile and feature two pathways, one for bicyclists and another for walkers.

"It's going to be a little bit wider than you see in some places along the RiverWalk," he says.
"And, of course, we'll have landscaping. We'll have the familiar stainless steel railing that people see along the riverfront, as well as security cameras and places to sit, things like that."

Although no formal completion date has been set, the conservancy hopes to have the new segment of the RiverWalk completed by spring of 2022. 
 
The conservancy also maintains a two-mile section known as the West RiverWalk that covers an area spanning from the former grounds of Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit to the Ambassador Bridge on the city's Southwest side. Over the coming year, the conservancy also plans to upgrade a 22-acre park there known as West Riverfront Park.
 
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