Salem: Evolution of the Riverfront Park


Riverfront Park is located on 23 acres next to downtown Salem, adjacent to the Willamette River. In the 1980s, the City utilized tax increment from the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area, to purchase the site from Boise Cascade. After the first phase of development, Riverfront Park opened to visitors in October 1996.


Riverfront Park – A Catalyst for Development

  • In 1998, A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village opened on the north side of the park. It houses a children’s science museum and science discovery playground.
  • Salem’s Riverfront Carousel opened June 2001 and was built by a citizen-based group.
  • The Eco-Earth Globe opened on the south side of the park June 30, 2003. The acid ball originally stored the acid used to break down wood chips into pulp. After cleaning, it took about five years to cover the globe with approximately 86,000 tiles.
  • The overlook, ramp, and floating boat dock were added to the park in 2005.
  • The open-air Pavilion opened in October 2005 after the Salem Rotary Club raised funds and built it as their centennial project.
  • The park is the site of annual regional events and also features an outdoor amphitheater, a children’s playground, large festival lawn sites, bike racks, restrooms, a path system throughout the park, picnic tables, park benches, and more.
  • In April 2009, the City opened the converted Union Street Railroad Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge connecting Riverfront Park to Wallace Marine Park.
  • In 2016, the City plans to open the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge to connect Downtown to Minto Island. The Bridge and Trail project is possible because of funding from a variety of federal, state, and local sources, including from the Riverfront Downtown and Waterfront Urban Renewal Areas, Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Business Oregon, and Oregon Department of Transportation.

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