NEW MADRID, Mo. -- Long known for its breath-taking view of the Mississippi River at one of its widest points, New Madrid will some day offer a scenic view of the town from the river.
Proposed improvements to the riverfront are scheduled to begin later this summer following a meeting of officials from the Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the City of New Madrid and the office of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson.
Emerson, introduced to the project by city officials and R.D. James of New Madrid, has led the funding effort in Congress.
While that $2.5 million provided for the project through federal funds to the Corps for construction does not cover the entire cost of the original $4 million project, Emerson said it will "change the face and the future of the New Madrid area by unlocking numerous possible recreational uses that will make the area more attractive and accessible for those wanting to visit and enjoy the river." Emerson also praised those working at the local level to move the project along.
Describing the meeting as an update, Marian Bock of New Madrid explained that the project was delayed by a review by the Corps of Engineers to ensure the work would fall under its guidelines.
Bock said the project provides many benefits for the town.
"First and foremost, this will provide better access to the river not only for visitors and the passengers on the riverboats but also Corps personnel who use this as a docking site for levee maintenance and dredging," said Bock.
The work will include bank stabilization along with beautification.
She said the recent discovery of a gasoline spill east of the observation deck will not impact the project, which is primarily west of the deck.
The improvements include the demolition of the existing boat ramp southeast of Capitol Street and construction of a new concrete ramp in the same location. Access steps with removable handrails will be installed on the west side of the ramp as well as a new parking lot providing parking for about 50 vehicles, including boat trailers and handicap parking.
An 840-foot levee walkway will be constructed on the riverside slope of the mainline levee just below the top of the levee. The walkway will begin at the west end of the boat ramp parking lot and extend just past the existing retaining wall and riverview seating east of the boat ramp.
The walkway will be 8 feet wide and built of brick. A handrail and overhead street lighting will be constructed along the walkway.
New restraining wall
The existing retaining wall on the riverside slope of the levee will be repaired and covered on the outside with decorative stone veneer. The existing seating at the retaining wall will be replaced with four terraced steps and handrails.
A lighted "New Madrid" sign will be placed near the retaining wall and will face the river. There will be several trash receptacles, a bicycle parking loop and extensive landscaping features provided in the vicinity of the retaining wall.
Handicap-accessible parking for three passenger cars will be constructed at the east end of the levee walkway.
The mainline levee will be cleared of debris from the existing observation deck at Main Street to the downstream end of the boat ramp parking lot, a distance of about a half mile.
Sod cover will be placed over this reach of riprap down to elevation 285 to facilitate the mowing of the levee by the city. The crown of the levee is at an elevation of 310.
The Memphis District is scheduled to award a contract for construction of these improvements in August.
Project costs are estimated at $2.5 million, to be funded by the federal government under the Energy and Water Appropriations Act.
Construction should be completed by next summer.
The City of New Madrid and St. John's Levee and Drainage District have provided easements for construction of the project and will provide minor maintenance for the construction features. The Corps of Engineers will provide major maintenance.