(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
Phase 1, funded entirely with federal dollars, includes construction of a new concrete boat ramp, parking lot, walkway and seating area. Also the slope of the levee was reduced, the rip rap removed and sod placed to allow easier maintenance.
"This project offers not only goodness for New Madrid, but goodness that goes beyond that," said Eddie Belk with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the project. "This spot is less than a mile from the Interstate, enabling anyone to come enjoy the Mississippi River."
The second phase, which is deemed recreational in nature by the Corps, would require a 50-50 funding match. It would include extending the walkway along the levee, creating broad steps at the Riverfront Park, lighting, parking bays along the levee road, a parking area across from the New Madrid Historical Museum, restroom facilities and handicapped access to the levee.
"When all is said and done, this will be a pretty comprehensive project," noted Belk.
"This is a great vision," said Emerson after listening to the presentation. "Being able to go back to your roots to the river is so important to a community."
But pointing out the city does not have the funds to come up with the $575,000 to fund its half of Phase 2, Emerson was asked if the cost share could be reduced.
According to Emerson, funding could be obtained through a water resources federal program that would cover the entire cost. However, she noted that the Committee isn't always receptive to Corps-related projects. She estimated there was a 50 percent or less chance of funding through this source for the coming year.
"But we are looking for other ways to skin the cat," said Emerson. "We are looking for creative solutions."
Belk also said the Corps would work with the city for a funding solution. He noted that much of the design work is complete on the second phase and the Corps is now waiting for funding to go ahead.
Escorting Emerson on the tour of the improvements, New Madrid City Administrator Furg Hunter said he and the city officials were glad that Emerson was able to see the project thus far.
"We are extremely appreciative of the fact that she has taken time from her schedule to inspect Phase 1 of Riverfront Improvement Project and also to discuss ways to get the project completed," said Hunter. "We know that she has committed to do all she can do to help this project move forward and get the next phase completed. We feel confident she will do all that she can."