The Herald News, Tuesday, December 15, 2015 – Page A4

Just in time for walkers, joggers and runners to enjoy the unseasonable mild mid-December weather, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation has reopened a section of boardwalk overlooking Battleship Cove, between the community boathouse and Heritage State Park, as well as the footbridge from the parking lot to the state park visitor’s center. It’s very much an early Christmas present for Fall River.

The footbridge had been closed for nearly two months as it was raised 2 feet in order to make it more resilient to high-tide flooding that contributed to its deterioration and prevented its use at times.

The boardwalk – a very popular recreational asset for local residents and visitors of all ages to the waterfront – is undergoing a total of $3.5 million of state funded renovations and is about $120,000 over budget. It is made of heavy South African tropical wood that not only looks good, but is extremely functional. Deteriorated sections of the boards had become tripping hazards on the “old” boardwalk. And unlike the old timbers, which were very “spongy and spring,” the new wood is heavy, solid and stabilizes the wheels of wheelchairs.

Another enhancement to the boardwalk is very bright lighting that will enable it to be safely used at night. “The lights are so bright, it’s like daytime, said Delfino Leonardo, a daily walker who was delighted with the results. That’s a beautiful thing – especially when the lack of daylight hours discourages outdoor exercise this time of year.

While the expected nine-month project was delayed due to last winter’s brutal weather, it is expected to be substantially complete by the end of the year with full completion – including the final touches and landscaping enhancements – expected by April 30. It is a great asset to help waterfront businesses nearby – including the Cove, as well as the bars and restaurants a little further up at Commonwealth Landing – attract diners and nightlife as well.

And it’s an asset for residents of Point Gloria and the soon-to-be-constructed residential units planned at Commonwealth Landing. The boardwalk is a great asset for visitors connecting Battleship Cove and Bicentennial Park – where the Iwo Jima monument stands. Eventually, city and state officials hope to extend the boardwalk further north to the Veterans Memorial Bridge where a recreational path connects Fall River and Somerset.

The reopening of the boardwalk represents the latest positive development along the still underutilized – and often under-appreciated – waterfront along the Taunton River. With the Route 79 reconstruction project slowly but surely moving ahead, Davol Street and the waterfront area will become much more accessible.

Waterfront development is also a priority of Mayor-elect Jasiel Correia II, who often spoke about his interest in developing a waterfront entertainment district and has assembled a waterfront development committee as part of his advisory team.

In yet another positive sign of waterfront potential, Roger Williams University architecture students last week unveiled their proposed designs for the potential development of a ferry terminal at the City Pier site.

The boardwalk reconstruction is a wonderful investment from the state that should pay big dividends to the city for years to come – and the latest positive development that ought to help move Fall River into a brighter future.