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updated: 7/11/2013 5:27 AM

Naperville Riverwalk group wants to make path longer

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  • Naperville's Riverwalk Commission is going to ask the city and park district for permission to extend the iconic path by another block on its south end.

       Naperville's Riverwalk Commission is going to ask the city and park district for permission to extend the iconic path by another block on its south end.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 
 

It's often called the "crown jewel" of Naperville.

It lines the West Branch of the DuPage River with brick paths, fountains, sculptures and meeting places. It covers nearly two miles and soon could get longer.

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Officials on Wednesday said they're ready to ask the park district board and the city council for the go-ahead to extend the Naperville Riverwalk south to Martin Avenue from its end at Hillside Road.

City staff members are compiling final cost estimates for construction and maintenance of the proposed stretch of Riverwalk before a park board meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 25. Board members will meet in the south maintenance facility at 3415 Book Road, said Bill Novack, the city's director of transportation, engineering and development.

Expanding the path south by one long block received broad residential support at an open house earlier this year, said Jeff Havel, Riverwalk Commission chairman.

"It also connects to the (Edward) hospital and Knoch Park," Havel said about the stretch of path proposed east of Washington Street. "It was kind of a natural evolution or extension from Hillside."

The design for the southern extension includes two plazas, a pedestrian bridge, at least two rain gardens and several areas of native plant restoration, along with the iconic brick walkway.

Bicycles, however, will continue to be banned from the extension -- as they are on the rest of the Riverwalk -- because of space and safety concerns.

The Riverwalk Commission began considering the possibility of extending the path last summer, when McDonald's came to the city council with plans to build a new restaurant on the southeast corner of Hillside and Washington.

Havel said commissioners previously had only considered improvements to enliven the end of the path at Hillside, where he said it fades unceremoniously into a normal sidewalk under boundaries set in 1993. But during discussions about the McDonald's plan, which eventually was rejected, some council members wondered aloud whether it would make sense to extend the Riverwalk farther south. That led the commission to conduct a feasibility study, which determined a southern extension is possible and desirable.

The commission plans to present southern extension designs to the council at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, in the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St. and seek permission to develop final construction plans and begin building.

If park district and city leaders support the extension, Riverwalk Administrator Jan Erickson said the commission also will seek approval of the guidelines that govern the Riverwalk and set its boundaries.

Changes to the guidelines that would allow the path to be extended could be approved simultaneously with the path plans themselves, she said.

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