Dayton’s new riverfront master plan calls for enhancing an existing park, creating a new park on the opposite side of the river and connecting the two with a dazzling new pedestrian bridge whose design rivals some of the most celebrated overcrossings around the nation.
“I think (the plan) is something people ought to be excited about and they can look at the future of what Dayton can become,” said Eric Sauer, planning manager of Five Rivers MetroParks, which is one of the partners on the Dayton Riverfront Plan.
The Dayton Riverfront Plan calls for reimaging Sunrise MetroPark at 50 N. Edwin C. Moses Blvd. and creating a new Sunset Park directly across the Great Miami River between First and Third streets.
The partners on the riverfront plan would like to see the parks become premier attractions akin to RiverScape MetroPark, which first opened in 2001 and cost more than $30 million to construct, across multiple phases.
The plan recommends connecting the parks with a “Unity Bridge” — which has been described as a “park-over-the-river,” with green spaces, trees, lawns, benches and other amenities.
The Unity Bridge could cost as much as $20 million to $40 million and undoubtedly would require funding from a variety of sources, Sauer said.
He said hopefully the community can pull together to make these projects a reality, as they once did with RiverScape.
RiverScape’s funding came from public partners, like the city of Dayton and Montgomery County, as well as from hundreds of residents, businesses and private foundations. The River Run project at RiverScape was once only an idea, but local groups successfully raised millions of dollars to make it happen.
Officials hope the Unity Bridge would become a popular destination and gathering place like some famous pedestrian crossings around the state and nation, such as a $23 million structure in Dublin, Ohio; the “Purple People” bridge in Cincinnati (Newport Southbank Bridge); and the Continental Bridge in Dallas Texas, which was once a highway bridge.
The Dayton Riverfront Plan has been called a “roadmap” for enhancing the the banks of the Great Miami, Wolf Creek, Stillwater and Mad rivers. Other projects along the river corridors are in progress or the planning stages.
The plan looks at what types of amenities can be added along the rivers, without interfering with the levees and flood protections, Sauer said.
The riverfront plan’s conceptual renderings also imagine new plazas at Sunrise and Sunset parks and “braided pathways” up and down the levees, improving access to the river.
The concept plans include “the perch,” a two-story structure that has classrooms or meeting rooms and a deck that overlooks the river.
Other renderings show new play areas, terraces, public artwork, sculptures, landscaping and pedestrian improvements, like decorative lighting and a slimmed down roadway.
Work to transform Sunrise MetroPark begins with a new bikeway that is planned for 2023 that will be on the top of the levee along West Riverview Avenue from Monument Avenue to West Third Street, said Joseph Weinel, Dayton’s chief engineer.
The project, which is expected to cost $350,000, will connect the Salem Avenue cycle track to the cycle track on West Third Street, improving access from West Dayton to downtown, Weinel said.
The project will help link the regional trail system to the bikeway at the bottom of the levee, at river level.
Weinel said the city is very excited by what is envisioned for Sunrise and Sunset parks.
He says this will create “synergy” with other assets west of downtown, like McIntosh Park, the Salem Avenue Peace Corridor and a collection of strong and unique neighborhoods.
Weinel and Sauer both say the proposed Sunrise and Sunset park improvements likely will occur incrementally, in phases.
The transformation of Dayton’s riverfronts will depend largely on funding, and officials say there are some promising funding opportunities, including billions of federal dollars in the recently approved infrastructure bill.