Though the cities of Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa share frontage along the Missouri River, historically they have not had a place to come together at the water’s edge. Hanafan Rivers Edge Park, a 90-acre public park, creates a shared place for both communities to engage with this great resource and each other. Gina Ford led the design of the project over its nearly ten years and multiple phases of implementation while a principal with Sasaki.
Inspired by the distinct character of the Council Bluffs side of the River—richly forested, green and soft—the park landscape is a unique experience in contrast to the highly urbanized landscapes that surround it. Providing a place of community gathering in the park, a “window” is carved out of an enhanced riparian forest, creating an open landscape down to the water’s edge to accommodate the city’s significant festivals and events and provide a view of the dramatic Omaha skyline.
A series of strategic cuts in the forest—“Windows”—create community places and open up views between the two river communities. Alternating with these cuts, existing stormwater channels—”Wetlands”—are restored, providing ecological connection between the community and the river. Giving form to the park meant strategic and sculptural manipulation of the site’s existing topography. The 15’ high flood protection levee is reshaped as gradual, terraced spaces. The park’s deep, flat floodplain is pulled taut to create a large flexible event lawn.
Phase Two, at almost an acre in size and a seven-million-dollar budget, provides an intimate counterpoint to the larger scaled spaces in Phase One.
A tilted lawn, situated on the levee profile, offers space for smaller events and concerts. Situated within an upland grove, a series of water elements creates a diverse experience of play for all age ranges. These “water rooms” embrace the adjacent connection to the Missouri River and provides opportunities for active play, including a water wall, a sloping scrim pool, small bubblers for young children, a water jets’ plaza and a fog terrace.
A park pavilion, tucked adjacent to the play grove and designed by Alley Poyner Macchietto, includes a community room, an observatory deck, green roof and restrooms.
The integration of public art is a key component for the whole park. Art from sculptor Mark di Suvero is thoughtfully integrated into the landscape. In addition, a series of play elements from Monstrum, a Danish art-based play company, are tucked into the play grove and gestures the flora and fauna of the Missouri River Ecosystem.Project Images