Riverfront Park is worth restoring
More than a year after Harvey’s waters ravaged Beaumont, the City Council has no shortage of problems that still must be resolved and buildings that must be rebuilt or relocated. Repairs to Riverfront Park might not be at the top of that list, but it should be pretty close.
The park lost a staggering amount of shoreline from the disaster, as much as 50 feet in some places. That’s big for any riverfront, but especially for a park that wasn’t particularly large to begin with. For the future of Beaumont, that land must be restored and the park rebuilt — even if it looks a little different in the next version.
Fortunately, the council seems to recognize that this should be a priority. This week the council approved a contract with a local engineering firm to continue repairs on the park. It will cover additional surveys, conceptual drawings for repairs, cost estimates and the submission of permit information to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The immediate goal is to prevent any further loss of shoreline by installing sheet piles or concrete pilings to stop erosion from either normal river fluctuation or a flood.
Even with all that work, city officials estimate that the park is at least a year away from reopening.
That’s frustrating, but understandable. A project this big must be done the right way, and it will take some time. If the park is rebuilt properly, the wait would be worthwhile.
That’s important real estate for Beaumont, some of the best waterfront for a city built alongside the Neches River. It can contribute to the appeal of the downtown, where numerous other civic projects have been completed or planned. All of those efforts can complement each other, so the city should keep moving forward on as many of them as possible.
The future of Riverfront Park also ties in with another major city project, the purchase and impending demolition of the empty AT&T building on Main Street just north of the park. Once that site is cleared, city officials hope to attract a private developer for a restaurant or similar venture. That property will be much more enticing to bidders when the nearby park is refurbished.
All of this will take time, but neither the council nor residents should give up. As we have learned after hurricanes Rita and Ike, the way to recover from a disaster is to just keep plugging away at every problem until you make some kind of progress on it. Some projects will go better than others, but quitting should not be an option. That just locks in a loss and usually has other negative effects on the surrounding neighborhood.
Riverfront Park is an important piece in the city’s post-Harvey puzzle. It’s been an asset to the city for a long time, and it must become one again.