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Detroit's western RiverWalk celebrated

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

Detroit – — Bitter cold and biting wind Saturday didn't stop many Detroiters from celebrating the opening of the western segment of the RiverWalk along the Detroit River.

"You've got to like it," said Detroiter Alfred Thomas, who was celebrating his 39th wedding anniversary with his wife Regina by taking a walk on the newly opened portion. "Before, this was nothing but a bunch of dirt and trash."

The signs of decay are long gone, replaced by a wide, paved walkway big enough to allow the frequent fishermen to cast a line in peace, cut grass and areas for sports and family activities.

“You’ve got to like it,” said Detroiter Alfred Thomas, who was celebrating his 39th wedding anniversary with his wife Regina by taking a walk on the newly opened Detroit RiverWalk West. “Before, this was nothing but a bunch of dirt and trash.”

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy hosted a block party celebrating the opening of the 20-acre parcel that once house a Detroit Free Press printing plant. It's part of a plan to extend the RiverWalk 5.5 miles from Belle Isle on the east to the Abassador Bridge on the west. The 2.2-mile stretch west from Joe Louis Arena has been open to the public since July.

"It's beautiful. It makes the city look good," Regina Thomas said. "I can't imagine how this is going to look for the fireworks next year."

The eastern segment of the RiverWalk is about 80 percent open.

Marcus Fracassa, 6, draws on the sidewalk with chalk on Saturday on the Detroit RiverWalk West in Detroit.

The RiverFront Conservancy raises money for construction, operation and security of public spaces along the Detroit River.

On Saturday, the bundled up visitors were treated to live music, family activities and sidewalk art.

Marcus Fracassa, 6, of Detroit used sidewalk chalk to create his own version of the festival, complete with replica bridge on the 30-foot wide path.

His aunt Elena Fracassa admired his work while admiring her surroundings.

"The improvement of the RiverWalk is, to me, more important that all the development going on downtown and in Midtown," the Detroiter said. "Up to now, we really haven't utilized our riverfront the best we could.

lrazzaq@detroitnews.com

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