Public opposition to the demolition of part of a key bridge in the Fabyan Forest Preserve appears to have shifted focus to its multimillion dollar possible replacement.
Kane County Forest Preserve Commissioners this week voted to tear down the concrete portion of the bridge that spans the Fox River between the east and west ends of the preserve in Geneva. The concrete portion of the bridge, behind the old windmill, is thought to be more than 100 years old. It connects the western portion of the preserve to a patch of earth in the middle of the river known as "The Island" and a wooden and steel bridge that allows swift access to the eastern portion of the preserve. The concrete bridge developed a 4-inch crack last fall, causing officials to close it to the public. But district President John Hoscheit said that's not a real solution.
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"People can still access it," Hoscheit said. "It's roped off, but it's a liability problem."
It's the threat of a possible lawsuit if someone gets hurt that had all forest preserve commissioners on board with demolishing the bridge as soon as the Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Historic Preservation Agency reviews the plan. It's what comes after that is fueling ongoing debate.
"This is no follow-up plan," said Commissioner Mike Donahue. "I agree it should be removed. But we also talked about a longer-term plan, and that plan has not been developed."
Darlene Larson and her Friends of Fabyan group already have complained about what they say is a lack of maintenance on the bridge and adjacent causeway. But she's indicated a willingness to support the demolition of the bridge as long as there is a suitable replacement that allows users to cross the river in a timely fashion.
"I think they will be easily persuaded to demolish the existing bridge," said Commissioner Drew Frasz, who has been communicating with Larson's group. "There is some history to it, but they seem more concerned about documenting it than keeping the bridge. The question is whether we replace it or not."
Hoscheit indicated a bridge replacement is not in the near future.
"We're talking in the millions of dollars in terms of cost to do that," said. "At this point, we don't have the resources for it."