Twenty-two years ago, Batavians envisioned turning a site filled with garbage and junked cars along the Fox River in to an idyllic place to refresh body and soul.
More than 5,000 people, and many businesses, gave money and time to build the Batavia Riverwalk, at Houston Street and Island Avenue. Every Saturday, May through October, they laid a brick path, built a boardwalk, shingled roofs, planted wildflowers and more. Their generosity enabled the attraction to be built at a cost of about $1.1 million, less than half what planners originally expected. Their dream reached fruition with the official opening in 1998.
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Festivals, weddings, concerts, plays, the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and more are held there. It's the starting place for many a fundraising charity walk or run. Luminarias glowed there on anniversaries of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.
But time, use and weather have taken their toll on its wooden boardwalk. It's being replaced, with composite planks. New railings will be installed also. The plan also includes some new seating areas; and improved ramps and slopes for handicapped accessibility; and bringing electrical wiring near the gazebo up to current building code. The Batavia Parks Foundation estimates it needs at least $25,000 to do so.
And civic leaders are counting again on Batavians' generosity.
The renovation, and a "Purchase-A-Plank" campaign, started Saturday at the Batavia Chamber of Commerce's annual awards dinner. Batavia's 2012 Citizens of the Year, Britta and Steve McKenna, outlined the proposal. Britta was the marketing manager for the original Riverwalk campaign; Steve is president of the Batavia Parks Foundation, which is overseeing the renewal effort.
"Batavia's signature park asks for community support to make the project another community success story," Steve McKenna said in a prepared statement.
The plan can be viewed online at purchaseaplank.com, or at the Batavia Park District, 327 W. Wilson St.
Volunteer groups of six to 12 adults, and skilled tradesmen, are asked to help demolish the old boardwalk and build the new one. The work will be done from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays in the spring, summer and fall. Interested volunteers should contact Sharon Mitchell at email@example.com to schedule a date.
For more information, or to donate, visit the website and "like" its Facebook page. Donations may also be sent to the foundation, in care of the Batavia Park District.