Casper City Council on Tuesday gave an initial nod to asking the Wyoming Business Council for up to $500,000 to improve the appearance of the south side of the river in central Casper.

The area is an important gateway to the downtown core according to studies and interests voiced by residents, Jolene Martinez, assistant to the city manager, wrote in a memo in the council work session agenda.

However, Martinez added, “it remains a distinct negative visual break from the work that has been done in the surrounding area including the Amoco Reuse Area, Downtown Casper, and the Old Yellowstone District.”

The First Street Gateway Project would create a park along the south side of the North Platte River from the BNSF Railway bridge for 404 feet south to the First Street Bridge, and continuing another 185 feet along the river bank.

“The park will include a pathway, a boat ramp with an attached parking lot, bollard lighting, park benches, picnic tables, landscaping and a welcome sign,” Martinez wrote.

Besides the aesthetics, the park would give first responders better access to the river. If something happens in the river, they need to get in the river in north Casper, she said.

The project would cost $786,000.

The city would submit the $500,000 request to the Wyoming Business Council’s Community Enhancement Grant program, which invests in infrastructure to improve aesthetics or the quality of life to make a community attractive for business development, according to Martinez’s memo.

The Business Council would insist on a 25% match to those funds. The city’s staff has identified at least three grant sources and has had encouraging talks with other foundations.

The request follows the unsuccessful attempt by the city in October to obtain $500,000 from the State Loan and Investment Board for the ongoing rehabilitation of a half-mile segment of the river.

The SLIB agreed with the Business Council, which earlier had rejected that $500,000 request.

That amount would have paid for much of what the First Street Gateway project is trying to accomplish.

However, the SLIB encouraged Martinez and other city officials to revise and reapply for the grant application due on March 1 to the Business Council which would consider it in May and pass it to the SLIB in June.

Mayor Charlie Powell said the Business Council keeps a tally of how many requests it considers and approves from areas around the state.

“There are only so many times we can go to the well for this,” Powell said.

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