To borrow a term from the tech industry, when it comes to the riverfront, the Quad-Cities needs a better user-interface. What the people of the Quad Cities need is a downtown beach—a proper BeachFront.
When the Quad-Cities looks in the mirror, we see that the river is our world-class natural resource. The river cuts right through the center of our identity. The river is our genius loci, to borrow a Roman term that means “the spirit of the place.” And yet, it’s difficult to dip a toe in our mighty Mississippi without a boat.
When you walk up the river, you often find either a rocky embankment with treacherous footing, a concrete embankment and handrail high above the water, or a stretch of wild unkept shoreline overrun with roots and poison ivy. The two sand beaches nearest the Quad-Cities are Princeton Beach, 20 miles upstream or Buffalo, 20 miles downstream.
The Quad-Cities needs a beach, a proper BeachFront.
I’m talking about a BeachFront on par with the great beaches of Chicago or the Coasts. Imagine a big swath of bright hot sand right in the middle of everything. If done well, the Quad-Cities could build quite the Midwest destination attraction that allows locals and tourists to connect with the greatest river in the world.
A beach in the heart of everything … would become the heart of everything.
If you build it, they will come. A legit beach with user-friendly amenities will spread like wild-fire on Facebook. Simple beach-amenities like changing rooms, rinse-showers and lifeguards, could be expanded to include social-media-friendly interactive art installations, food trucks, kettle corn vendors, bike and scooter rentals, samba lessons, triathlons, baptisms, you name it.
A BeachFront would provide the conduit for interconnection between this great river of ours and the city. Imagine a beautiful beach accessible by car, bus, Channel Cat, or boat. A great big beach, right along the bike path (making that amenity even better) while also being walkable to and from downtown Davenport’s shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
The beach could fit nicely inside the sweeping bend from Lindsay Park in East Davenport downstream to River Heritage Park. All you need is enough sand, and a tractor to groom it now and then.
We’d lose some sand when it floods, sure, but a ton of sand is dirt cheap, and you could float it in by the barge full. The Army Corp of Engineers have been successfully maintaining Princeton Beach for decades and employ experts who can manage erosion, so let’s not throw this baby out with the flood water.
Imagine a beach so wonderful you’d want to get engaged there, say your wedding vows there, spend a day with your family there and scatter your ashes there when it’s all over.
The genius of Burnham’s plan for Chicago was keeping the waterfront free for public enjoyment. We need to realize the river is one of our greatest strengths. The beach would be an attraction, a getaway destination, and huge boost to the Quad Cities brand, which will lead to growth.
And remember, everyone loves a day at the beach.
Brian Deines is raising a family in LeClaire, while working, running, writing, coaching, doing art, and thinking about the river.