Overhead, the leaves rustled in a giant cottonwood by the Rum River as Jerry Noller talked about the new Riverfront Park opening Saturday in downtown Anoka.
“We have been watching it progress,” said the retired physician and Anoka resident, his wife and their dog standing nearby. “They’ve done a fastidious job. Everything is well done.”
“It’s fabulous,” said Gail Noller, a psychologist. Nearby, workers laid sod along the concrete walk/bike trail running between the river and a four-level rain garden. The garden, which collects and filters rain runoff, is planted with river birch, ferns and golden Stella d’Oro daylilies.
Workers added the finishing touches to the yearlong project this week so the park would be ready for the city’s annual Riverfest and Craft Fair on Saturday.
The project cost $1.54 million. Nearly half of that was covered by a $760,000 federal transportation enhancement grant won for the bike trail, which connects to the Northstar commuter rail’s Anoka Station, said public services director Greg Lee. The 2-acre park will have trail map kiosks and interpretive history signs describing the early wooden dams, Lincoln Flour Mill and Washburn Saw Mill that once occupied the site.
The park “has been envisioned for 15 to 20 years,” Lee said. “It’s come a long way.”
The new quarter-mile walk/bike trail runs from the City Hall boat docks, past the Rum River dam and through the three-block-long park to an existing paved bike trail. The segment will be lit at night by old-fashioned streetlights and by uplights on rain garden birch.
The new stretch is the last paved link for the city’s part of the Rum River Regional Trail. Besides completing the bike trail, Riverfront Park is important because it will “attract people and, we hope, redevelopment,” Lee said.