Riverfront Park is Buchanan’s hidden gem

Published 9:37 am Thursday, April 24, 2014

Buchanan resident Mike Kitchell loves to fly fish for steelhead at Red Bud Riverfront Park in Buchanan. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

Buchanan resident Mike Kitchell loves to fly fish for steelhead at Red Bud Riverfront Park in Buchanan. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

BUCHANAN — As Robert Frost wrote, “Nature’s first green is gold,” and although it seems to have been a long time coming this year, that golden hue is now faintly visible along the trails of Red Bud Riverfront Park in Buchanan.

While the park may be a bit tricky to find, nature-lovers will agree that it is a treasure worth hunting for.

Stretching between Red Bud Trail North and the banks of the St. Joseph River, Riverfront Park is bounded on its south end by Richards Street. In fact, the park is broken into two oddly-shaped portions, separated by privately-owned plots of land.

In the section accessible by Richards St., visitors will find restroom facilities and walking access to trails that wind down a wooded slope to the river’s edge.

In the section that is accessible by car via River Front Drive, which turns off of Red Bud Trail North, visitors will find a large parking area, a small pavilion, a boat ramp and a dock. This portion of the park is located at the bottom of the slope, so the park’s 1,700 feet of river frontage are just a few feet from the parking area.

Although Riverfront Park is one of Buchanan’s lesser-known and lesser-used parks, Debra Patzer, administrative assistant with the city would like to see more residents and visitors taking advantage of the park’s facilities.

“It’s a nice park, but it’s sort of tucked away, so many people may not know about it,” Patzer said. “We’d like to encourage people to use it more.”

The weathered condition of the sign marking the entrance to the park on River Front Drive may be one reason that people are unaware of the park’s existence. A better landmark is a large blue sign that directs drivers to the location of Library and Educational Services, which is situated on land next to the park.

Riverfront Park has not seen much in the way of capital improvements since 1981, when grants were used to build the facilities that are now present in the park.

However, noting the underutilization of the park, the city’s 2011 community recreation plan, which covers a five year period, does make specific mention of the need for improvements to its facilities, so it may be that some freshening up will take place there at some point in the future.

And, while the general public may not be very familiar with the park’s existence, fishermen in the area certainly know that it is there.

“There were a lot of people fishing down here this past weekend,” said Mike Kitchell, a resident of Buchanan who likes the spot for fly fishing.

Kitchell said that Riverfront Park can be a great spot to catch a variety of species, especially steelhead, depending upon the season.

“The steelhead like the gravel beds just downstream,” Kitchell said, pointing to a spot in the river near the dock that he was casting from. “And, you’ll be able to catch bluegill off the dock here soon.”

While Riverfront Park does offer a nice, secluded spot for fishing, the trails that wind along the wooded riverbanks also provide an opportunity to observe the flora and fauna that make the banks their home.

Although the buds on the trees are still very tiny, some wildflowers are already blooming, and of course, green beds of skunk cabbage are sprouting up in the marshy areas. With a sandy creek running through the woods to the river, the park provides an enjoyable spot to hike.

The city of Buchanan has many other parks that boast lush lawns, flower beds and playgrounds for children to enjoy.

Red Bud Riverfront Park, on the other hand, provides a place where folks can get back to nature, listen to the singing of the birds, and maybe even catch a few fish.