Naperville’s Riverwalk is often touted as a key feature of the community. Riverwalk officials are now interested in expanding it further south:
Chairman Jeff Havel said an extension would link Edward Hospital and Knoch Park to the downtown.
The idea came up last summer when McDonald’s was looking to open a restaurant at the southeast corner of Hillside Road and Washington Street near the Riverwalk’s current terminus. That plan fell through and the site is still occupied by a Citgo gas station. It is the only piece of land along the proposed extension the city does not currently own.
Havel said the Riverwalk Commission is always looking to complete gaps in the path’s boundaries, update its appearance and improve safety, accessibility and hospitality…
If the plan does move forward as Park District Commissioner Ron Ory hopes it does, he said he would like to see it happen through volunteer efforts and private funding.
I’d say go for it, particularly if the cost could be kept low in the spirit of the original Riverwalk that was first created with donated time and materials from people in the community. The Riverwalk is a unique feature of Naperville; while the DuPage River is not that grand as it winds through the community, it still provides something few suburbs have. For most of its history, the river was not accentuated in the community even though early Naperville featured a mill on the river. Buildings in the downtown that backed up to the river did little to provide an interface between the two places. But, with the first Riverwalk planning beginning in the 1970s and the first section opening on Labor Day in 1981, it has provided a public space and a park right in the middle of downtown.
Also, such a park can continue a process that has been taking in DuPage County over recent decades: using land along waterways as park land or Forest Preserve land. The DuPage County Forest Preserve has bought a lot of land around the branches of the DuPage River and Naperville can contribute to this project with a Riverwalk extension.
A third point: I wonder if this was lurking behind Naperville’s tough questions of the proposed McDonald’s on Washington Street. If the proposed site is the only site along the river the city does not own, this earlier decision makes more sense.