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updated: 4/20/2011 8:45 AM

Lessons in history, life found along Naperville's Riverwalk

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For the past 17 years, my friend Nancy and I have walked Naperville's Riverwalk from the Main Street parking lot to Jefferson Avenue and back again nearly every Thursday morning.

I could provide a blow-by-blow about the pathway of changes in growth and development as well as design and maintenance improvements that we've encountered through the years. Instead, here's hoping that during the changing seasons of the coming months, you'll take time to enjoy this natural treasure.

Plus, the path is chock full of rich history here and there. Look closely and you'll discover many markers predate the winding brick paths that were begun in 1979 to commemorate the city's sesquicentennial.

For instance, every week the path has taken us past a stone marker just west of the Netzley House, now the home of the visitor center for the Moser Tower with the 72-bell Millennium Carillon.

A simple unsigned poem, "What We Need," was dedicated in 1974 in memory of Clyde "Budd" Netzley, Rufus Dirck Schumacher and Harry E. Ridley. The words are engraved in the large flat surface waiting for passers-by to read.

What we need

A little more kindness and a little less creed,

A little more giving and a little less greed,

A little more smile and a little less frown,

A little less kicking when a man is down,

A little more "we" and a little less "I,"

A little more laugh and a little less cry,

A little more flowers on the pathway to life,

And fewer on graves at the end of life.

Every time I come to that place along the Riverwalk, I'm stopped in my tracks for a moment of reflection, repeatedly mindful the quest for kindness in our world is nothing new.

The next time you're on the Riverwalk, get off the beaten path. Look for the stone marker on the north side in the section of the Riverwalk that runs behind River Place condominiums. It's just west of the foot bridge over the DuPage River that leads to the soon-to-be renovated Centennial Beach and Bath House, the Skaters Park, the Jaycees Playground and the Grand Pavilion.

Don't feed ducks

On a recent rainy Saturday morning during another brisk hike along the Riverwalk, I came upon a father with his two young daughters. Both little girls were fashionably covered in brightly colored print rain gear from head to toe. They stood, watching the ducks and geese from the bridge near the Dandelion Fountain.

Just as I was within earshot, the younger daughter said, "Daddy, my teacher said it's not good to feed bread to the ducks."

I wanted to cheer! I wanted to chime into the conversation, "She's right! See those stamps in the sidewalk along the river! They say 'Do Not Feed Wildlife' and the Riverwalk Commissioners put the message there for good reason."

I held my tongue. Not wanting to interfere with the exchange between a father and his daughters, I continued on my way. I could feel I was lighter on my feet.

If you're that teacher who has been educating your classroom of curious children that it's not good for the health of ducks and geese to feed them bread and other human food, I thank you! Keep spreading the word.

So many lessons can be learned along the Riverwalk.

No matter what the season, every time I visit the Riverwalk, every enhancement reminds me of the volunteer spirit that helped to plan the idea -- Fredenhagen Park, the extension from the Washington Street Bridge to Hillside Road and the Millennium Wall.

And as I pass the engraved messages in the new low-flow sidewalks or on that old stone marker, I'm reminded how much we can learn outdoors when we pay attention to our surroundings.

I'm also mindful that "what we need" begins at home. Peace.

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