The City of Naples opened a new pedestrian bridge over the Gordon River Tuesday, which local cycling groups hope will help cyclists avoid the few busy roads that cross the river. The Blair Foundation Bridge spans the river near the Naples Municipal Airport on the east side, to the site of the future Baker Park - near Riverside Circle - on the west.
"The bridge has been a dream of ours for a long time," said Alan Ryker, a co-founder of the Naples Pathways Coalition.
Ryker said the bridge will provide a safer path for people who commute by bike, rather than riding along Golden Gate Parkway or Davis Boulevard and U.S. 41.
"Once they discover this safe access into the community, I think it could be a life-saver," he said.
Also on Tuesday, the City of Naples broke ground on the fifteen and a half acres of Baker Park near the Blair Foundation Bridge, after years of delay in planning and budgeting.
"It's like making sausage - sometimes it's not pretty," said Dana Souza, Director of Community Services for the City of Naples. "But you have to go through the various design iterations, in order to get to the point that we're at today."
At a cost of over $10 million, Baker will include a small boat dock, a launch area for kayaks and paddle boards, as well as playground, picnic shelters and a performance area.
"Event organizers will be able to add a stage or tenting," Souza said. "It's really going to accommodate a lot of different functions."
Souza said that construction of Baker Park should take 15 to 18 months to complete. City council has also reserved $2.9 million to eventually construct a community building for events and meetings at the park.