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Naperville
Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Riverwalk offers pathway to seasonal changes

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When your PN editors sat down to plan this November issue, our thoughts quickly focused on the generous volunteer and can-do spirit that has been passed on from one generation to the next since 1831, always aimed to benefit the local economy and our quality of life.

Folks may come here for the schools, the parks and good value of homes, but families choose to stay here because of the energy of the innovative doers who bring people together to make good things happen.

Take the Riverwalk, for example. Four strategically located foot bridges, three of them covered, welcome visitors to cross over the meandering DuPage River to connect to the brick paths of the award-winning park in the heart of downtown.

These days, the splendorous autumn colors enhance the winding walkway, creating an ever-changing recreational environment for peaceful reflection.

During its first 34 years, the path that follows the DuPage River from the Jefferson Avenue to Hillside Road has grown to be a source of community pride and joy. The Riverwalk is often called the city’s “crown jewel.”

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 dedicated at Main and Jackson streets.

These days, right across the river, development is going up along the Water Street District. Last April, old buildings were demolished and now a new parking deck and a low flow path along the DuPage River are quickly taking shape.

In time, a boutique hotel, restaurants, shops, other services and a parking deck will be available, revitalizing the block next to the Naperville Township Building and the Naperville.Municipal Center.

As the city’s natural treasure is maturing, settling around its many established amenities and waiting to adjust to the new ones, the potential for new development south of Hillside Road has created interest to expand the Riverwalk in that direction, too.

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, away from residential neighborhoods.

After a feasibility study to determine the merits and public support of extending the Riverwalk, the City Council before the current one agreed to extend the boundaries south from Hillside Road toward Martin Avenue near Edward Hospital. Yet, plans for any new development are way in the future.

Meanwhile, a new Dunkin’ Donuts has opened at the corner of Hillside and Washington.

On a historical note from the early 1990s, it’s interesting that during the planning phases of the west extension from the Riverwalk Grand Pavilion through Sindt Woods to the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, new residents to Naperville 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, a paddle boat marina, fountains, plazas, gardens, gazebos, sculptures, to name just a few. And many nonprofit organizations annually use the Riverwalk as the centerpiece for their fundraising events.

In 1984, Rotary Hill seemed to magically appear as the perfect place for sledding in the winter. In 2000, the Moser Tower with its 72-bell carillon was dedicated at its home at the base of Rotary Hill. And in 2009 and 2011, the community discovered Rotary Hill with its gentle slant was a sensational stage for the Healing Field of Honor with the number of American flags depicting the year.

This year during the week of Veterans Day, the Healing Field display of 2,015 American flags will grace a view of Naperville’s Vietnam Memorial Wall, a 60 percent replica of the one in Washington, D.C.

“Our ‘Vietnam Wall’ will be up along with the 2,015 Flags from Fri., Nov. 6 until Fri., Nov. 13,” Wayne Fischer wrote in local veterans’ newsletters for November.

Earlier Fischer had mentioned serving on the committee was the first time he’d worked with Kinney and he expressed his heartfelt gratitude for Kinney’s help with the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

American flags for the Healing Field may be purchased for $30. A special “Tag of Honor” is available for an additional $5. Flag order forms are available at the Naperville Park District Administrative Office and online at www.healingfield.org/naperville.

Riverwalk Foundation

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 volunteer initiatives of 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.

When the City Council does approve extending the Riverwalk with funding, those plans will follow completion of the park setting next to Burger King, a parcel along the river ready to be developed likely in the next couple of years by North Central College.

Whatever future plans, 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, too.

Catch the spirit!

More than a few times, this community has come together with grassroots initiatives to face the challenges that unite us. Opportunities to participate are endless for everyone who puts Naperville first, always striving to make our hometown an even better place to live, work and play with our families.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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PN Ombudsman
PN Ombudsman
An ombudsman is Scandinavian in origin dating back to Viking times; and refers to a community representative; usually acting independently on behalf of an organization, body of elected officials, or civic group. Thanks Scandinavia for inventing ombudsman.

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Above / Did you know? A large plaque sits atop a rock along the Naperville Riverwalk that pays tribute to the DuPage County Sesquicentennial...
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