Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park was created with the intention of giving people a green space to explore the Missouri River and the river’s edge.
Since it opened May 25, the park has succeeded in bringing in visitors from surrounding communities, said Larry Foster, Council Bluffs’ Parks and Recreation director.
“We’re really pleased with the public reaction we’ve gotten,” Foster said.
To open the park with a bang, officials organized Loessfest.
The two-week festival featured live music, food, movies and more. A concert by the Beach Boys was the most popular event, with an estimated 17,000 attendees, Foster said.
Officials want Loessfest to become an annual event.
Though the park can accommodate events, Foster said the city wants people to be able to experience the park on a day-to-day basis.
The park’s size and appearance make it unusual.
“It’s very large and yet it appears not to be,” Foster said. “People that see it from above and walk down into it are pretty amazed at how large and spacious the park is.”
Organizers wanted a site for the park that would be minimally impacted by flooding. The park’s location on the Council Bluffs side of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge didn’t experience massive erosion or sedimentation after the 2011 flooding, Foster said.
The park is designed to be just as popular a destination during the evening as it is during the day.
In addition to the entire park being illuminated at night, another popular draw is the interactive light display, “Rays.”
Two six- to nine-minute light shows go off every hour. Portions of the shows are interactive for those on the park’s Great Lawn.
The show can be enjoyed by spectators and by those who want to run around, activating the show.
“The great green lawn shows up twinkling at night,” Foster said.
The park is seen as an asset for the region and for Council Bluffs.
“The idea of the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park was to create a public space where people could truly experience and enjoy the river,” Foster said. “It has become a magnet for people on both sides of the river.”