Evansville Riverfront Park

Indiana, Vanderburgh County, Evansville

river mile 793

River access: yes. Tree cover: open. Impervious surface: a lot. Landscape design strategy: manicured. Information about the Ohio River: THE MOST!

Evansville’s riverfront is distinctive. It is an arc that traces a great northern loop of the river. This park is LONG — it runs north to south more than a mile from the water treatment plant at the upstream end to the casino boat at the downstream end — a mile and a half if one continues upstream as far as the USS LST 325. Evansville gets the prize for the greatest variety of different kinds of spaces located within one park.

There’s a wide beach pretty much all the way. We know that a little bit of fishing and a reenactment of the 1943 Allied Invasion of Sicily have happened there, as well as a big airshow, but the research team hopes that some wading, swimming, sunbathing, and beach volleyball occur there as well. Maybe some paddleboats to rent, and some kayaking or canoeing. There could be a fish fry — of Ohio River fish! Evansville Beach could be a destination, and the crown jewel for the restoration of water quality in the Ohio River: Drink the Water! Eat the Fish!

When the research team first arrived at the amphitheater and boat launch we were impressed by the design and construction, but unimpressed by the facilities: a boat launch and amphitheater at the bottom of a low bluff, with a sidewalk next to the road above. As we walked along we discovered far more. First, there are a number of memorials of different types. The most distinctive is the Four Freedoms Monument, reminding us of the principles of our democracy — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — as articulated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union Address to Congress. Its shape expresses its symbolism. It was built in 1976 using the limestone columns from one of Evansville’s major railroad stations, demolished in 1966. Saving them was a perceptive decision.

Then there is a fanciful building — a pagoda? Yes, it was built in 1912, based on the Japanese Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. That, in turn, was based on the Byodoin, a countryside villa built outside Kyoto in 998 AD and modified into a temple of Mahayana Buddhism in 1053. Its architectural form was entirely new (Yiengpruksawan. 1995. Art Bulletin) Globalization of trade may be new, but globalization of ideas — even architectural ideas — certainly is not.

The Pagoda now is occupied by the Evansville Visitor’s Center. Which, by the way, has a comprehensive selection of handbills and pamphlets not only from Evansville but from surrounding counties. Handbills may seem ephemeral and extraneous, but they are useful to identify places one otherwise would not find. The research team has gone to many mines, factory tours, quirky museums, and industrial sites on the basis of many of these handbills. Perhaps the Ohio River Parks Project will be among them soon!!! The Visitor’s Center also has a small exhibit of carefully crafted model steamboats.

The next surprise walking upstream is a cluster of museums: all part of the Evansville Museum, they include a transportation center, sections on the arts, history, and science, and an immersive theater.

Upstream the linear park — now called Sunset Park because, it does face due west — continues with an excellent selection of open and covered picnic areas with grills, toilets, water, tennis courts and a modern playground. Kayakers or bicyclists certainly could find a place to pitch a tent here, but as a public park in a city it might be discourages. Evansville CVB: How about creating a campground for tents and modest trailers?

Since the wastewater treatment plant and the Evansville Levee Authority are at the upstream end of the park, about only things missing are an explanation of wastewater treatment and one of the levee system. There is plenty of fence space for posting some informative panels. (And hope for regular tours of the wastewater treatment plant as well.)

The riverfront also is part of Evansville’s extensive regional bike trail system.

The research team initially downgraded this park for its lack of information about the Ohio River. That was before we walked along the streetside sidewalk and overlook. Wow! What a wealth of information! There are panels on all kinds of topics — each of the four overlooks has about 25. Take a look at them!

31 May 2017