COVINGTON, Ky. — Covington has been completely rebuilding its riverfront over the last few years, and now the hard work is finally paying off.

What You Need To Know

  • The city of Covington has long heard complaints from people wanting better access to the riverfront

  • A few years ago, the city began work on the Covington Plaza

  • The new area gives residents the chance to enjoy the riverfront, and will be able to host events

  • It’s part of a bigger project to connect cities along the Ohio River

Covington officials say reconnecting people to the river was the goal, and it’s something people have been requesting for a long time.

Sister Mary Ellen Strunk and Sister Reinette Kroeger say they love to stroll along the Covington riverfront while enjoying the artwork, but it wasn’t always so easy to do so.

The Covington Plaza, as it’s now called, looks a lot different from it did a few years, and a few million dollars worth of refurbishing ago.

“This has always been a place, a center, where people love to come because of the river. And now it is such a pleasant atmosphere, and environment,” Sister Kroeger said.

Two new overlooks, two new paths, an area to drop in kayaks and canoes and the crown jewel, a new 1,300 seat amphitheater, all in all was a $6.5 million project, two thirds of which was paid for with federal funding. The remainder was paid with bonds the city had previously issued.

Physical work on Covington Plaza began in September 2019.

Crews from Prus Construction began by removing the old parking lot from under the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge and cutting off or carrying away garbage cans, stanchions, and other extraneous amenities and features left over from the long-closed Covington Landing floating restaurant complex. 

“Riverfront Commons was a very challenging project but a very rewarding project at the same time,” said Prus Project Manager Jared McFaddin. “Anytime you are working along 1,500 linear feet of the Ohio River shoreline you are in for some ups and downs, literally and figuratively. The river does not always stay within its banks, which creates construction difficulties and sometime a lot of cleanups. We’re very proud of our work and the project.”

Covington communications manager Dan Hassert said the city has long asked people what they wanted, and this was it. 

“The city has long heard suggestions and complaints saying hey, where can we go to enjoy the river?” Hassert said. “This is about reconnecting with the river. I mean, for too long, the public pretty much was blocked away from enjoying what is pretty much the defining, or has been the defining geographic characteristic of the city.”

Hassert said it also represents a shift in philosophy of how the city wants to utilize the Ohio River.

Through the late 1980s and early ’90s, the vision of a riverfront lined with floating restaurants and entertainment had wowed Covington with neon lights and optimistic dreams, Hassert said.

“It’s difficult to convey the magnitude of what this project represents to Covington,” said Ken Smith, the City’s neighborhood services director. “For a long time, we were either blocking the river or trying to tame it. Going forward, the City is embracing its riverfront and giving residents more opportunities to access and appreciate its beauty.”

It’s part of the overall Riverfront Commons project, a trail which will eventually connect six cities along the Ohio Riverfront from Dayton to Ludlow.

The Covington portion of the project has come in phases. Phase one was building three fourths of a mile of sidewalks, hiking and biking trails. Phase two included the new features of the Covington Plaza. Phase three will be extending the trail further west.

“One day you’ll be able to take a bike or your running shoes, and you’re gonna be able to go all along the six cities, at least that’s the hope,” Hassert said.

The plaza has already been the setting of several events, and many more are in the works, ike a taco festival at the end of June.

Sister Strunk said she’s all for it.

“It's just nicer now,” she said. “I can’t wait to come down here.”

There’s an event planned for Friday, June 18, to dedicate the Covington Plaza.

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. there will be food, drinks, and live music on the riverfront.