Directly across from downtown Omaha and at the foot of the newly-completed Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, the Council Bluffs Riverfront Park is a 90-acre public park situated within the broad riparian floodplain of the great Missouri River. Sasaki's master plan for the park capitalizes upon the distinct character of the Council Bluffs side of the river—richly forested, green, and soft—in distinct contrast to the highly urbanized landscape that surrounds it.
The design of the park focuses intensity of public use and development in a core area of the existing site which allows access to the river and also preserves key habitat and riparian floodplain. Strategies to increase the ecological function of the site include nearly 20 acres of reforestation, roadside bioswales, porous pavement, diverse native plantings, and parking lot rain gardens. The ecologically sensitive areas north and south of the bridge's landing are reinforced by reforestation and wetland enhancement strategies and accessed via a series of trails and environmental interpretation.
At the bridge landing, a "window" is carved out of the forest, creating an open landscape down to the water's edge that can accommodate the city's significant festivals and events and provide a view of the dramatic Omaha skyline. The edges of the window provide shaded groves for picnicking and a river-scaled sandbox for play at the water's edge. All of these improvements are designed to withstand occasional flooding of the site and are coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The integration of public art is a key component of the park design. Environmental artist Doug Hollis is an integral member of the design team and will contribute an iconic weather-inspired tower and water feature to the park's landing—an active water play and ice-skating plaza atop the existing levee. The plan accommodates the works of other artists, from lighting installations to sculptural elements, and will be implemented over time.
The Main Branch of the Chicago River has a long and storied history that in many ways mirrors the development of Chicago itself. Once a meandering marshy stream, the river first became an engineered...