Bismarck’s newest Mayor, Steve Bakken, has held his seat for about seven months now, and he says he’s loving it.
KX News had the chance to check in with him and talk about the Mayor’s plans for 2019, including development along the Missouri River.
Right now, when you picture the Bismarck riverfront, most think of the Lewis and Clark Riverboat. But Mayor Steve Bakken envisions much more in the near future.
In the open space, the Mayor would like to see a couple public marinas, boardwalks, and bars and restaurants lining the Missouri River.
Mayor Bakken explains, “We’ve got the one thing, other than the State Capitol and the State Prison, that no other city has in the state: and that’s an incredible recreational riverfront. What we don’t have, is access to that recreational riverfront.”
He says it’s all about bringing in tourism dollars, and he says filling the land along the river with outdoor events, hotels and even amphitheaters, is the way to get people to stop in Bismarck.
The Mayor adds, “You have to remember, we’re the home of the state record Walleye. I’m quite sure a lot of fishermen would like to come to Bismarck and try to set that new bar.”
One project that’s already in the works is the Heritage River Landing, a full-scale visitor center next to the Riverboat, that will be stocked with a restaurant.
The Director on the project says he’s spoken with the Mayor, and agrees, there is more to come.
Aaron Barth, the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation Director explains, “So really our vision is just a reflection and outgrowth of what the community has asked for, year after year, after year.”
Mayor Bakken wants the 1883 Burlington Northern Sante Fe Rail Bridge to be a part of the plan. The only question is, if it will be able to stand as is, or if they will incorporate pieces of it into a historical boardwalk along the river.
‘Friends of the Rail Bridge’ Member Mark Zimmerman shares, “There have been a lot of ideas tossed out there. One was to save one of the pillars of the bridge and put an observation deck on it.”
Zimmerman is also a member of the Bismarck Parks and Recreation Commission. They are already working alongside Mayor Bakken and the City Commission to get these envisioned projects off the ground.
Zimmerman adds, “I was out on the trails, in fact, this morning just for a morning run. And it’s interesting, you could see footprints in the snow, you could see bicycle tire tracks for the fat bikes. People love the river, they want to be on the river.”
Mayor Bakken says, “Having those opportunities for gathering spaces for the community, and for people outside the community to come in from the tourism component, that’s huge. It’s an untapped resource.”
Mayor Bakken hasn’t contracted any realtors or developers just yet, but he says a few have expressed interest and even started drawing up some plans.
The goal is to start building by the spring of 2020.