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updated: 10/19/2012 5:31 PM

Naperville's Riverwalk may expand south

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McDonald's loss may end up being the Naperville Riverwalk's gain as officials consider extending the popular path south.

At the urging of the Riverwalk Commission, city officials have given members the green light to look into the benefits and cost of extending the path from Hillside Road, on the south end, to Martin Avenue.

The current Riverwalk boundaries were set in 1993.

Earlier this summer, when McDonald's began discussing its now defunct plan to build a store on the southeast corner of Hillside and Washington, several council members wondered aloud whether it would make sense to extend the Riverwalk south of Hillside. The commission discussed the concept at a recent meeting and concluded there's merit to taking the Riverwalk to Martin Avenue.

"It's safe to say McDonald's was the catalyst for those discussions," Riverwalk Administrator Jan Erickson said. "It got us thinking outside the box a little bit and questioning the previous thoughts about the boundaries."

Extending the Riverwalk, she said, would provide a connection to the downtown from the Edward Hospital campus, the DuPage River bike trail and the private residences in that area. Commission members also believe it would provide an alternative to the carriage walk along Washington Street and a better connection to the Martin Mitchell property.

The commission has no timeline, but Erickson said residents will be polled before the study gets too far.

"Obviously we will poll residents and get the pulse of the community. If there's no support, I don't imagine we'll get very far beyond that point," she said. "It's very early in the process, so we don't have a timeline yet."

Bill Novak, the city's director of transportation, engineering and development, said the commission will incur some costs to conduct the study.

"We will have our consultant look at assessing the feasibility and coming up with some cost estimates, but it will be within the Riverwalk's current budget," he said.

The plan already has support at the dais, however, with council members excited at the thought.

"I like the idea that we would consider extending the Riverwalk south," Councilman Robert Fieseler said. "Right now, to get in between the Riverwalk, where it ends at Veterans Park and where it picks up again at the river at Hillside involves going a very torturous path through and around the neighborhood."

Councilman Grant Wehrli, who is also on the Riverwalk Commission agreed, calling the Riverwalk "the best thing we have going in this city."

"I think looking at this to Martin Avenue is absolutely the best thing to do," he said.

The Riverwalk Commission next meets on Nov. 14 to begin planning.

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