Town of Patriot hears vision for development and stabilization of its riverfront

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A group of interested citizens in Patriot attended a special information session at the Patriot Town Hall on Tuesday night to hear a presentation on what the future could hold for the town’s riverfront.

Roy Boling, a member of the Patriot-Posey Parks and Recreation Board, opened the meeting by telling the audience that all of the possibilities in the presentation represented a “wish list” of different things that the town could do along the riverfront, but some would take longer than others to become a reality.

“When we began this project, we just talked about the project and the different ideas that we had,” Roy Boling said. “Certainly riverfront stabilization drives this project. We want the river to stay down there and not come up here. We’re not going to do everything we hear about. This is a long term project that will be done over a period of years.”

Roy Boling then introduced Mike Rape of Strand Associates, the company hired by the town to develop a preliminary engineering report on the riverfront project. He told the audience that the report contains information on four main points: stabilization of the riverfront; the development of a loop walking trail around the town; the creation of a memorial plaza on the riverfront; and development of the Patriot boat ramp area and tying it into the town.

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The stabilization of the riverfront is at the center of any development plan for the town. Mike Rape said that the project is focused on approximately 2,000 feet of riverfront; and comes down to two options.

The first option is to secure the riverfront with a rip-rap stabilization technique that would line the riverbank with rip-rap stone. This method is approved by the Army Corps of Engineers; and Tim Rape said that an advantage to this method is that the town would get uniform results.

“The negative aspect of using rip-rap is that construction can be difficult,” Tim Rape said. “It involves a lot of heavy equipment and barges.”

He said that preliminary cost estimates using rip-rap along the 2,000-foot area come in at around $1 million.

Tim Rape said that big negative on using rip-rap is that the state’s Department of Natural Resources prefers using a bioengineered stabilization method. This involves using plants, trees, and other natural materials to hold the riverbank in place.

Using bioengineered stabilization means that the riverfront is more in harmony with the natural setting of the community; and is more flexible in its uses than rip-rap. Tim Rape said that workers would use natural materials that are native to this area in designing vegetation that would be used; and construction methods are much less destructive and more habitat-friendly than using the rip-rap exclusively.

The negatives of bioengineered stabilization are that the designs for the riverbank have to be more of a “custom fit”, and as more design is needed, then costs rise. Tim Rape also said that there is “less history” in using bioengineered stabilization; and another problem is that many contractors are not as familiar with using this method, meaning that the town could get less bids on doing the work.

Still, the estimated cost of using bioengineered stabilization comes in about $200,000 less than rip-rap.

But some of the citizens at the meeting weren’t convinced, noting that using plants to hold a stream bed is much different than trying to hold one of the most-traveled rivers in the world.

“I just don’t see how that is going to protect our riverfront,” Janett Boling said. “As the river comes up, what’s going to keep all of this from washing away? I’d hate to spend all of this money and then see it washed away in the first flood.”

Tim Rape said that one method is to use “bags” or “logs” of natural materials wrapped in a coconut mesh. The theory is that the coconut mesh material will hold the riverbank in place while the plants in it develop a root system deep in the soil. Once the coconut mesh disintegrates after about eight years, the plants are firmly rooted enough to hold the riverbank and not be washed away.

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The walking loop around Patriot and along the riverbank would form a loop running along the river on Front Street down to Troy Street, then up to State Road 156 and back through town to make the loop.

Tim Rape said that the walking loop would be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act; and would involve a six-foot wide concrete sidewalk with seating areas and green space along the loop.

“Once thing that we would have to look at is that Front Street would probably have to become a one-way street,” Tim Rape said. “But it isn’t heavily traveled now, so we don’t think that would be a problem.”

The estimated cost of the walking loop is $170,000; and any discussion of a walking loop would come only after the riverfront stabilization has been completed.

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The next item of discussion involved the development of a Memorial Plaza on the riverfront just below Patriot Town Hall. Preliminary drawings involve a larger dock and landscaping and seating terraces where people could sit and relax by the river.

“We believe that we need to develop something that’s eye catching from the river,” Tim Rape said. “So that boaters going by will be drawn to stop and visit the community and see the plaza and other areas.”

One of the interesting ideas was using an area of the plaza to construct a replica of the Hoover Dam as a tribute to Patriot native Elwood Mead, who – as secretary of the interior under President Herbert Hoover – oversaw the construction of Hoover Dam, and in the process had Lake Mead named after him.

Tim Rape said that the replica could be placed in the plaza along with panels placed around it that would give visitors a history lesson about Mead’s life and career.

The estimated cost of the development of the Memorial Plaza was set at $150,000.

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The final aspect of the presentation dealt with the development of a trail that would connect the town of Patriot with the park development going on at the Patriot Boat Ramp to the east. The trail would be placed along State Road 156, but that creates a design problem for engineers.

Tim Rape said that ideally the trail would run on the south side of the road so that visitors would not have to cross the highway to get to the park; but there are many rough spots and steep slopes standing in the way – and that translates into high construction costs.

One option would be to use the old Highway 156 right of way on the north side of the current road. People would walk along the path until getting to the bridge, and would then see the path go down under the highway bridge to the south side of the road.

This would necessitate the building of a walking bridge; and Tim Rape said that the town could either purchase a new bridge; or find a community that has a historic bridge that they no longer want and pay to have it moved to Patriot.

This could also be eligible for federal funding with an 80-20 match.

“We feel that a path like this would link the town to the boat ramp,” Tim Rape said.

The estimated cost of this portion would be approximately $700,000 to $1 million.

Following the presentation those in attendance had the chance to discuss different aspects of the entire plan with the designers. Drawing and photos and other parts of the project were left in town hall so that interested residents can see the proposal for themselves.