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Gateway Plaza may swing open soon

City installing swinging benches, walking path as riverfront park takes shape

STERLING – Gateway Plaza, the city’s newest park, is getting to be a swinging spot for riverfront development.

Public works department crews this week are installing three swinging benches between the bike and walking path and the river’s edge, and a concrete walking path that will mirror the river will be poured sometime in the next couple of weeks, City Manager Scott Shumard said Wednesday.

Signage will be placed along the paths, creating a walking tour that will tell the history of the site, including that of the businesses that once occupied the swath of land, and of the river itself. Another will tell about the variety of the Rock River’s fishes, and still another will explain the effort to clean up the area.

There’s also a plan to add unpaved paths so visitors can roam around prairie fields where Northwestern Steel and Wire Plant 1 once stood.

The goal is to make the area resemble what it did centuries ago, before the factories arrived, and to become an educational area that people can appreciate, Shumard said.

The hope is that the park at Wallace Street and Avenue B will be ready to open to the public in October, he said. Its 20 or so acres will be accessible via a temporary sidewalk off Wallace, on eastern side of the park.

It’s all part of a recreational development plan that began a decade ago. Last summer, about 30,000 cubic yards of dirt was moved there and seeded, and planter boxes were installed.

City Council members Tuesday commended the improvements taking place at the riverfront.

“I don’t think people realize how much we’ve actually accomplished,” Mayor Skip Lee said.

Also at the meeting, Police Chief Tim Morgan told the council that a solar-powered mobile video trailer will be placed in the area for the time being, “to keep vandalism to a minimum.”

Shumard noted its need.

“I hate having the Big Brother effect, but at the same time, we want to spend our time and money enhancing the area instead of going back and fixing things that were already put in place.”

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