Appleton's Fox River offers a Playground of Possibilities

jpegFrom the Focus on the Fox by Renee Torzala

When you think of a playground, images of swings, monkey bars and slides usually come to mind.  This isn't what Alderman Joe Martin had in mind when he said that the riverfront is a "playground of possibilities."  Playground equipment is just one component of a much larger vision. 

Martin used the analogy because of the riverfront's potential to become a destination for people of all ages, incomes and abilities. "It is like an empty canvas that is slowly filling up with improved trail systems, mixed-use development and recreational amenities," said Martin.

The riverfront is changing, and so are people's perceptions.  What used to be a mostly industrial area, is now becoming a refuge for residents and visitors to enjoy on a daily basis.  It is a place where you can go to enjoy nature, try kayaking, get some exercise, have a picnic, or gather with friends and neighbors.

"When you are on the trails, you hear and see birds that you don't see in the central business district.   The trails have made this wildlife more accessible to us,"  he said.  "It is a giant playground in the center of the city."

In addition to the increased mobility provided by the trails, Martin says that the mixed-use approach of new riverfront development is key to its live-work-play appeal.  "I'm looking forward to the new Eagle Flats area and I'm excited about the walkability it will provide for residents."

What other possibilities should be considered as the playground evolves?  For Martin, he would like to see more trees, native wildflowers, apple blossoms, and other enhancements that will bring the natural environment back into focus.  "Maybe a small grocery store, or a deli or cafe that is convenient for trail users.  Also, public transit will be important to make the area accessible to everyone year-round," he said.

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For more about mixed-use development trends and placemaking, go to:  "The Power of Place:  A New Dimension for Sustainable Development at Project for Public Spaces.

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