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Published: Friday, 11/3/2006

McNamara floats idea for riverwalk

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Joe McNamara, at-large council candidate, details his plan along the bank of Swan Creek. Joe McNamara, at-large council candidate, details his plan along the bank of Swan Creek.
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Adding to a long list of ideas he's offered during his campaign for an at-large Toledo City Council seat, candidate Joe McNamara yesterday called for developing a San Antonio-style riverwalk along Swan Creek.

The riverwalk has been envisioned by others, including Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in his previous term.

Mr. McNamara, an unendorsed Democrat, stood outside the Toledo Farmers Market and Erie Street Market to suggest a paved walkway with public furniture at water's edge, to be followed by development of stores, restaurants, and residences.

He said it could be developed in stages from downtown to Libbey High School.

"We've got this amazing river. It goes through a blighted area of town," he said. "We could build something really unique."

Mr. McNamara didn't propose a cost estimate or a timetable.

Opponents in the Nov. 7 election splashed cold water on the idea. Unendorsed Democrat

Robert Vasquez said council should stay focused on two major projects on the drawing board: the Marina District and a new arena.

"We need to concentrate on the Marina District," Mr. Vasquez said. "We just came out with a plan. Let's stick to it."

David Schulz, the endorsed Republican, has proposed developing Point Place as a waterfront destination.

"My plans would be more beneficial to the economy than the riverwalk," Mr. Schulz said.

Independent David Davison said Toledo can't afford the cost. "It's a good idea, but it's not a good idea for now," he said.

Councilman Lourdes Santiago, the endorsed Democrat and temporary appointee to the seat, and unendorsed Democrat James Mohn did not return calls seeking comment.

The special election Tuesday is for the three years remaining in the at-large term vacated by Democrat Bob McCloskey, who resigned in May and was convicted for bribery.

A riverwalk along Swan Creek has been a recurring goal of Mr. Finkbeiner. He has led boating trips up the creek to show it off.

In his first term, the city built a floating boat dock, sections of walkway on the creek between Lafayette and Monroe streets, and an overlook at Oliver Street. This year, the mayor called for a riverwalk and canal in the Marina District and sent top aides to a seminar in San Antonio to investigate. The idea was shelved because of the $50 million price tag.

Don Monroe, special projects manager for the city in connection with the Marina District and Erie Street Market, agreed that Swan Creek is the right place for a riverwalk, and said it would cost less than a canal through the Marina District.

Mr. McNamara said state and federal grants and loans could be used, including the $200 million Clean Ohio Fund that was tapped for the Marina District.

The San Antonio RiverWalk, a 2 1/2-mile loop of the San Antonio River 18 feet below street level, is lined with shops and cafes that attract $800 million a year in tourism spending.



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