Burlington residents Charles Walsh and David Wiemer pitched the idea Monday to city council.
In keeping with recent renovations completed along the Burlington riverfront, a committee of local volunteers has proposed a park to further attract residents and visitors to the Mississippi River.
The flood wall and a new path along the wall were completed this year, with more green space and amenities (floating boat docks, outdoor amphitheater, splash pad) under consideration for the riverfront in the future.
Charles Walsh, chairman of the Riverfront Advisory Committee, and David Wiemer, a landscape architect and member of the committee, made their presentation Monday during a Burlington City Council work session.
Walsh, president of Farmers and Merchants Bank and Trust, was instrumental in getting Riverside Park built between the marina and Great River Bridge, and Wiemer has spent a career designing parks.
The men hope to spur redevelopment downriver, south of Memorial Auditorium, which currently is unused where they want to build, but partially owned by BNSF Railway.
The park would be two acres with two boat ramps, a small shelter, playground equipment, walking and biking path, benches, a sculpture and ample greenery.
Wiemer acknowledged it would not be a simple project to complete, possibly taking a decade to come together, for about $130,000 to $150,000 to construct. Through donations and grant funds, he was hopeful the city would not have to put any funds toward building the park.
Wiemer said he wanted to make the park happen because "the city of Burlington is a great place to live, work and play. This is the play part of it."
A resolution in favor of the park passed Aug. 13 out of the Riverfront Advisory Committee, Wiemer said, and the city Parks Advisory Committee also was supportive.
Mayor Shane McCampbell cautioned the riverfront committee to work "delicately" with the railroad in trying to come to an agreement on the land, so as not to disturb other ongoing negotiations the city has about BNSF property it wants to acquire.
Councilman Jon Billups suggested Wiemer talk with the man who leases riverfront land from the railroad to try and get him on board with the project.
"It'd sure be great to get their blessing on it," said Billups. "I realize that in the past they've fought this, but this is a lot smaller piece than what I think they've been asked to do before."
When it came to acquiring railroad property, Billups said the proposed park space would be worth fighting for.
"I'd much rather have a park on our greatest asset, on the riverfront," he said.
Walsh echoed Billups, urging the city not to back down from BNSF.
"You just got to keep pushing," he said. "The railroad can be a friend but they can be your enemy. We live here, they don't."
For Wiemer, the pursuit of local parks in Burlington is more than a profession, it's a passion.
"My passion is to leave Burlington a better place than what I found it," he said.