South River Street Park along the Fox River's west bank in Aurora soon will become something of a regional pedestrian trail hub thanks in part to a $217,000 state grant.
The grant, from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program, will pay about one-third the cost of improvements the Fox Valley Park District is planning for the 8-acre park.
A new ramp connecting the Gilman Trail with the Fox River Trail will be the highlight of the development plan, said Jeff Palmquist, the park district's director of planning, development and grants.
"These are two regional trails we wanted to link up," Palmquist said.
The Gilman Trail, which runs east to west, crosses the north-to-south Fox River Trail in the park about 15 feet above ground level on a former railroad right of way. The new ramp will help bring users of either trail slope up or down to change directions and paths, Palmquist said.
To complement the trail ramp, the park also will receive fishing and boating improvements, a new picnic shelter, expanded parking, habitat restoration and a kiosk with maps and interpretive signs. Having such variety in recreational offerings at one location helps bring a project to the front of the line for open space grant money, Palmquist said.
"We need to ensure we have a broad range of recreation opportunities," he said. "Applications that only focus on one type of project are usually not successful."
The Fox Valley Park District has received open space grants from the state five other times since 2007, and the money has funded work on Greene Field Park, the Lippold Park Natural Area, Spring Lake Park, Simmons Park, Waubonsie Lake Park and Waubonsie Creek Park.
The work at South River Street Park will take place in stages beginning as early as this fall. When it's complete, the park, just south of downtown, will be a hub for regional trails commonly used for recreation and transportation to workplaces, Palmquist said.
"This is another phase in the transformation of the west bank of the river," he said. "We've opened up more of the river for views and open space conservation."