1 West River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55401
6 am-midnight in developed areas
6 am-10 pm in undeveloped areas
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This park will be affected by a completed park or service area master plan. View Master Plans
Major investments at Central Gym Park in 2018 were made possible with funding from the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan. This historic agreement between MPRB and the City of Minneapolis helps address racial and economic equity across 160 neighborhood parks and provides $11 million annually to maintain, repair and replace facilities.
A series of bridges of different structural types has existed at this location throughout the years. The first suspension bridge on the site was built in 1855.
The park is located under and adjacent to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge between West River Parkway and the Mississippi River in the Central Riverfront Regional Park. Interpretive markers provide historical information and photographs about the site.
The park features a river-edge walkway with ornamental railings, lighting, other circulation features and landscaping. A continuous, curving seatwall along the back of the river-edge walkway offers many spots to sit and watch the river flowing by.
The wall and other features are enhanced by many artist-designed whimsical bronze sculptures of water creatures. A large piece of native limestone quarried near the site has been cut and erected as a monumental art piece.
Name: The name for the park was chosen because it is the site of the first bridge across the Mississippi River—anywhere. The first suspension bridge on the site was built by Franklin Steele in 1855.
Acquisition and Development
The land for First Bridge Park was acquired in 1985 from the real estate subsidiary of Burlington Northern Railroad, which owned much of the land along the river downtown. The company donated 22 acres of riverfront to the city in part in return for changes in zoning that enabled the company to develop other land holdings in the area for commercial and residential purposes. A condition of the donation was that the park board construct a park and parkway along the river from Plymouth Avenue to Portland Avenue by 1987. That parkway was completed in 1987 and later named James I. Rice Parkway.
The impetus for the creation of First Bridge Park, which features the excavated footings of the three earliest bridges on the site, was the construction of a new Federal Reserve Bank on the site of the former railroad depot adjacent to James Rice Parkway. The park was completed in 2001.
Along with Mill Ruins Park, First Bridge Park represents an effort to preserve and illustrate the history of Minneapolis.
Park history compiled and written by David C. Smith.