Four  strategically located  foot bridges welcome visitors to  cross over the meandering DuPage River to  connect to the brick paths of the award-winning Naperville Riverwalk, right in the heart of downtown.  These days, the splendorous autumn colors enhance the winding walkway, creating an ever-changing recreational  environment for peaceful reflection.

Now following the DuPage River from the Jefferson Avenue to Hillside Road, the Riverwalk has grown to be a source of community pride and joy for more than 31 years.  Open for brisk walks and leisurely strolls year-round, the linear park that was begun to commemorate the city’s sesquicentennial in 1981 has been extended several times since it was first landscaped at Main and Jackson streets.

Now that the city’s natural treasure is maturing, settling around its many amenities, the potential of new development south of Hillside Road has created interest in expanding the Riverwalk in that direction, too.

Click any photo to enlarge the gallery. All photos taken Oct. 18-24.

During recent Riverwalk Commission meetings, some commissioners have wondered about expanding the Riverwalk south from Hillside Road  toward Martin Avenue near Edward Hospital.  The existing boundaries were discussed at a City Council meeting where it became apparent that some councilmen were unaware of the limitations.

The current boundaries have been in place since 1993 when Mayor Sam Macrane and City Council members set them to please residents who wanted to keep the winding path in the downtown area and  away from residential neighborhoods.

The City Council now has authorized a feasibility study to determine the merits and public support of extending the Riverwalk.

FYI: During the planning phases of the extension from the Riverwalk Grand Pavilion through Sindt Woods to the Jefferson Street Bridge in the early 1990s, new residents became aware that the DuPage River had been identified for its recreational attraction since the  original low walkway along the river  had been a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project back during the Great Depression.  In 1931, Centennial Beach in the old quarry was dedicated as a community project to commemorate the city’s first 100 years.

Since 1981, volunteers and service organizations have been inspired to come up with commemorative features that  help enhance the winding brick walk—covered bridges, historic markers, playgrounds, paddle boat marinas, fountains, plazas, gardens, gazebos, sculptures,  a carillon tower, etc.

In the late 1990s, the Riverwalk Foundation was established as a conduit for fundraising campaigns. Projects such as the Riverwalk 2000 extension from Washington to Hillside, restoration of the Riverwalk Amphitheater as well as the development of Fredenhagen Park on the former Cock Robin property have been supported, in part, by the foundation. Most recently, funds from the foundation were contributed to the Riverwalk Gateway at North Central College.

Today, the private-public partnership that cares for the Riverwalk is mostly a public project, with capital improvements funded by the City of Naperville and the maintenance and care provided by the Naperville Park District.  If the City Council approves extending the Riverwalk, certainly the costs of public safety, design and build, landscaping as well as long-term maintenance will be considered. And other campaigns to raise funds from private donors likely will be planned.

Riverwalk Gateway to North Central College

This weekend, during Homecoming festivities at North Central College, the new Riverwalk Gateway adjacent to Fredenhagen Park will be dedicated at 1PM Sat., Oct. 27. The public is invited to see this new connection to Fredenhagen Park, the Moser Covered Bridge and the Riverwalk Extension near Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

Thanks to the dedication of leadership on the Riverwalk Commission, countless volunteers and generous donors—way too many for one writer to accurately remember—the Riverwalk is a priceless natural treasure that changes every season of the year.

Enjoy all its connections!

—PN

Editor’s Note: The volunteer spirit that is attached to the Riverwalk and Naper Settlement attracted PN’s publisher, Stephanie Penick, and her family to this community in the early 1900s.  For full disclosure of why the Riverwalk has such a presence on this website, since 1996, Penick’s interest has been more than a walk in the park.  As a volunteer, she has participated in fundraising campaigns that mounted more than $1 million in private funds for two major Riverwalk projects, Riverwalk 2000 and Fredenhagen Park.  She is a founding member of the Riverwalk Foundation.

RELATED POSTS:  Find many photos and stories about the Riverwalk by using the handy “Search” tool on this website.

Riverwalk Gateway Dedication is planned during Homecoming 2012