Covington Plaza is the newest link in the long-term project to reconnect the city to the Ohio River

The second phase of Covington’s portion of the Riverfront Commons trail, sometimes referred to as the “crown jewel” section, is all but finished now.

The $6.5 million portion includes a space called Covington Plaza, a 1,350-seat riverfront amphitheater, similar to downtown Cincinnati’s Serpentine Wall, where people can enjoy music and other performances, or just sit, eat lunch, and watch the river flow.

The city plans a grand opening sometime in June, but the space is already being put to good use. The Carnegie is staging 10 performances of its “I Got Rhythm” dance and music production there (the final performances are this weekend, May 28-30). Earlier this month, it produced a weekend of performances of “George Remus: A New Musical,” which told the story of the legendary local bootlegger in song.

The latest event is the three-day FedEx Rockin’ Taco Festival, which will be held June 25-27, and feature vendors with creative renditions of tacos, as well as Latin music and dance.

Events aside, it’s hoped that people will simply come to the Commons space on a daily basis to watch the river, hike, bike, and take pictures. The new section also includes two concrete paths for walkers, bicyclists, and runners to travel either along the water’s edge or along the floodwall murals, and a pier underneath the Suspension Bridge where paddlers can launch kayaks and canoes.

“Planners like to talk about ‘activation’ of spaces,” says Ken Smith, Covington’s neighborhood services director. “We think the public’s use and activity at Covington Plaza will very much carry out the goal of that word.”

The project is a piece of Covington’s contribution to the Riverfront Commons plan proposed by the regional organization Southbank Partners about 20 years ago. The goal is to link six river cities with an uninterrupted 11.5-mile hiking and biking path stretching from Fort Thomas to Ludlow.

Smith says the project represents a shift in Covington's physical relationship to the Ohio River, and a new philosophy of encouraging the public’s access to it.

“It’s difficult to convey the magnitude of what this project represents to Covington,” he says. “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.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.