Plan to develop riverfront comes with a big price tag

St. Joseph's Tourism Commission reviewed a proposal that includes an RV campground, riverside resort and lake, and boat marina among other amenities.

Posted: May 3, 2019 11:31 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) For being a river town, St. Joseph has never quite figured out how to use the Mighty Mo as an asset.

The problem started many years ago, before the development of Riverfront Park.

"We had no access to the river. You couldn't get to the river. You couldn't go fishing if you wanted to because there was no way to get to the river. I said 'This is crazy. We are a riverfront town,'" said Tourism Commission Chair Dick DeShon.

From those first baby steps to develop St. Joseph's Riverfront now comes a more than $90 million grand plan.

On Thursday, St. Joseph's Tourism Commission reviewed a proposal that includes an RV campground, riverside resort and lake, and boat marina among other amenities.

"What they have to input into the community is really going to help tourism," said Marci Bennett, St. Joseph Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

Money for the project would come from a hotel/motel tax but it only collects $500,000 a year, meaning it would take a long time to come up with the total amount of money needed for the project.

"We don't have $90 million. What we'd like to do is leverage our funds to see if we can get some private investors to invest," said DeShon.

"The city's job in my mind is to make it possible for private people to invest their money into things that are good for the city," said Bennett.

One big infrastructure hurdle for the plan includes getting people in and out of Heritage Park, with only one road in and out of the area.

But city leaders remain hopeful.

"Encourage tourism, encourage private development and enhance the quality of life for citizens."

Tourism Commission members have tentatively approved the plan but stress that does not mean that all parts of the project must be included.

Any final plan would need to be approved by the City Council.

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