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Hannibal is sprucing up its riverfront for residents and tourists

This rendering shows Hannibal's marina, docking area and green space, now under construction.
Hannibal Parks and Recreation
This rendering shows Hannibal's marina, docking area and green space, now under construction.

The boyhood home of Mark Twain is getting a makeover along its riverfront.

The changes will include a new river wall, event space and docking sites for three riverboats, including the Mark Twain. The improvements, in the works since the 1990s, will address a number of longstanding problems, according to Parks and Recreation director Andy Dorian.

“Failing river walls, old parking lots, dilapidated bathrooms,” Dorian said. “Our fountains were broken.”

Cruise destination and bicentennial

The plan came together Nov. 6 when the Hannibal City Council approved a $6.6 million contract with nearby Bleigh Construction, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers endorsed it. Construction is underway.

The renovation, financed through the city’s sales tax and a bond issue, comes just as Viking Cruises is making plans to offer Mississippi River vacations with stops in Hannibal.

“When we’re getting ready to do all this stuff and then you have a major company like that say, ‘Hey we're going to come to town,’ it just actually worked out perfectly for us,” Dorian said.

A green space is designed to appeal not only to tourists but also Hannibal residents, with accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers, and an expanded list of events.

“We’ll have movies in the park and music in the marina,” Dorian said. “We’ll be able to host large events such as family reunions, and things tied to our annual Tom Sawyer Days and the Big River Steampunk Festival."

Hannibal will mark its bicentennial int 2019. Dorian expects some events focused on that celebration will be held in the new green space if the project meets its September completion date.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Dorian said.

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.