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Ogden • A clean river runs through it.

A downtown stretch of the Ogden River, once polluted and choked with trash, tires and even old cars, now invites fishing, kayaking and swimming. Joggers and cyclists like it, too.

Some 12,000 tons of trash and debris were removed from a 1.1-mile stretch of waterway running from Washington Boulevard to Gibson Avenue during restoration that began 31/2 years ago.

It's been a long time coming — more than a decade in the planning. And it wasn't cheap: $7 million and change.

But the rehabilitation will pay dividends, according to Ogden officials and environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who visited the river in 2007.

"When you start doing river restoration in a community like this, the entire community prospers," Kennedy said at the time.

The newly beautified stretch of river features a greenbelt of native species along its banks, said Jason Carey of River Restoration, the Glenwood Springs, Colo., engineering consulting firm hired by Ogden to guide the effort. About 30,000 individual plants were placed along the restoration area.

On Friday at 2 p.m., a ceremony will officially unveil the project that outgoing Mayor Matthew Godfrey first championed upon taking office 12 years ago.

"We didn't envision it taking this long," the mayor said. "But given its complexities, we're just happy to have it where it is."

He believes it will be one of downtown Ogden's greatest assets. "Its beauty is obvious, even to skeptics. And it provides a place for people in the community to gather."

The downtown waterway, once lined with dilapidated houses and considered a dangerous area, is expected to be a showcase for the northern Utah city. Bluffdale-based South River LLC is slated to build 69 townhouses along the river in conjunction with Ogden's Redevelopment Agency. Other developments are expected to follow.

"The project allows for a venue and reason to live downtown," Godfrey said. "You can't have a vibrant downtown without people living there."

The housing build-out will take time, but public amenities along the waterway are ready now. The river is accessible to the public through 20 entry areas, Carey said. A walking and bike path is already in use and there and places for people to simply sit and enjoy the restored environment.

"It's been a transformation in both the community's recognition of the value of the river as well as land use," Carey said. "Previously, the river was literally a dump. Now we're looking at it as a new downtown development area."

Longtime Ogden resident Courtney La Zalere said the restoration brought people to the river over the summer like never before.

"The river is looking a lot better," she said. "You definitely see a lot of people down here."

La Zalere is a server at Slack Water Pub and Pizzeria on Washington Boulevard. Its patio overlooks the river.

"It's crowded here on a sunny day," she said. "People like to sit by the river. And they linger, too."

For joggers like Aimee Graves, the new walking and biking path along the river and the restoration in general make a world of difference.

"We're definitely excited for what it's doing for downtown," she said. "And we can run on the path now without much fear."

But while people like Graves can't wait for housing and retail projects to be built along the river, Ogden resident Morey Sutter is dubious about the real estate aspect of the project.

"I have mixed feelings about the planned developments," he said. "But I think the restoration is worth it. It brings out the outdoor people. I get a positive feeling from it."

It's been a long wait, said Joshua Wilson, who regularly walks along the river with his wife, Andrea Wilson."It's really nice with the bridges and the landscaping," he said. "It's come a long, long way. It's awesome."

Who paid for the restoration

$1.55 million • Ogden City

$1.25M • Federal stimulus

$1M • State Water Quality grant

$1M • Local donor campaign

$823,000 • Central Weber Sewer

$750K • Land conservation agreement

$600K • Ogden Arts Council

$155K • Weber R.A.M.P. Fund

$100K • Weber Basin Water

$100K • Weber County

$100K • Habitat Council