New Bedford residents are one step closer to enjoying a long walk along the Acushnet River.

Shadley Associates, the company designing the 2.2 mile walkway in the north end, held a community meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Victoria Riverside Town Houses.

They presented concept plans for the river walk's path along the river and possible features including different bicycle racks, trash bins, and lamp posts. They asked attendees for input with anything from bench color and design to safety concerns.

Michelle Paul, the Environmental Stewardship Director for city, said progress on the walkway hinges on the EPA's work cleaning the river.

"We're looking at this as a habitat restoration project that we can really use to grow into a public access project and showcase the city," Paul said.

Construction on the river walk will be completed in sections as the clean-up process goes along.

Despite the EPA's ongoing effort to remove PCB's and other contaminates from the Acushnet river, some environmental activists say it won't be enough.

Karen Vilandry, president of Hands Across the River Coalition, says the river will still be heavily contaminated after the clean-up work is complete. Public safety is her main concern with the project, and believes fences should be installed to prevent people from fishing or swimming in the river from the walkway.

The River Walk Project currently has $2.9 Million in funding, however officials hope to receive more eventually.

Paul said she hopes to begin construction in 18 months and finish it after seven years, but delays in the clean-up effort could force New Bedford to wait longer for a stroll along the Acushnet River.

Concept design for a rest area along the river walk. (Jon Faria/ TSM)