By Melissa Garcia

DENVER (CBS4) – After years of construction, a major river revitalization project in Denver’s Confluence Park is open to the public.

READ MORE: Colorado Gets First Excessive Heat Warning On Record With Highs Set To Near 110 Degrees

(credit: CBS)

Thousands of people from Denver and beyond made a splash near the newly renovated Shoemaker Plaza during the 6th Annual South Platte RiverFest.

(credit: CBS)

Previously, access to the river was halted by nearly three years of construction.

The event drew families like the Cases, who brought along their kayak.

“It’s fun,” said Ayden Case.

“It’s a great way to utilize the resources that Denver has,” said his dad, Lester Case, as he paddled.

(credit: CBS)

Farther downstream, 3-year-old Malek and his dad, Sumit Sarkar, waded near the chute that sends white water gushing down the river.

“That really gets us a chance to celebrate the Denver lifestyle and the Colorado culture,” Sarkar told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

READ MORE: Speed Flier Rescued From Summit County Mountain As Rescue Calls Continue To Climb

(credit: CBS)

But the coveted stretch of river has not always been a good spot for a swim.

A 2014 lawsuit centered on what environmentalists say is the most polluted waterway in Colorado.

One group estimated more than 200,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, leaked from Colorado industrial facilities, ended up in the Platte River in 2010.

The Greenway Foundation has been working for more than 40 years to transform the former dumping grounds into places where people can play, among other activities.

(credit: CBS)

Ryan Aids, development director for the foundation said seeing the Plaza open after decades of planning was “extremely emotional” for the group.

“The Greenway Foundation has been working since 1974 to make the river the best place to live, work and play,” Aids said. “And today is a great indication that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Money raised at the RiverFest will go toward educating thousands of youth each year about the value of the South Platte River watershed, and other programs through the Greenway Foundation.

LINK: The Greenway Foundation

MORE NEWS: 2 Year Old In Denver Amber Alert Found Safely

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to