Naperville Riverwalk stewards developing policy on what can be added there
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If there's one thing Naperville Riverwalk commissioners want to prevent on the popular path often called the city's "crown jewel," it's too much overt commercialism.
And if there's one thing they want to preserve, it's the Riverwalk's beauty as a recreational venue, community gathering place and showcase for the city's history of volunteer involvement.
With that in mind, commissioners are developing a written policy on the review process for proposed sculptures, plazas, memorials or other elements groups may want to add to the Riverwalk.
The policy, commissioners say, will standardize the process they already follow and protect the quality of the downtown path -- just as its slogan says -- "for generations to come."
"We want to make sure the Riverwalk remains the crown jewel for Naperville citizens," Commissioner Annmarie Siwik said. "It's a beautiful place, and we want to continue to make sure it is kept up, maintained and doesn't become too commercial."
The 13-member Riverwalk Commission acts as a steward for use and development of the 1.75-mile path, and in that role, commissioners handle requests when nonprofit organizations, service clubs, Eagle Scouts and others want to install something there.
Such requests have been coming more frequently during the past year, sparking a desire to formalize a process for evaluating them, said Jeff Havel, the commission's chairman.
"Other organizations in the community see the value in the Riverwalk and want to be a part of it," said Grant Wehrli, a Riverwalk commissioner and city council member.
Commissioner Rick Hitchcock, whose Hitchcock Design Group has laid out several projects along the path, said a written policy for how to help the Riverwalk or suggest additions will ensure fairness when diverse organizations come forward. Otherwise, he says, such reviews can get touchy.
"The next thing you know, we've got a lot of stuff going on and a lot of really good organizations with really great intentions putting us in a really awkward spot," Hitchcock said.
The Riverwalk already boasts elements representing the Jaycees, Rotary, Exchange Club, Masons, garden club, veterans and farmers; businesses including Edward Hospital, Exelon, Nalco and Nicor; prominent families including the Fredenhagens, Mosers, Netzleys and Wehrlis; and five pieces of Century Walk art.
Some of those elements are small plaques near benches, almost unnoticeable to the casual walker, while others are playgrounds, sculptures, shelters, bridges, fountains -- even the iconic Millennium Carillon in Moser Tower.
"The whole spirit of the Riverwalk is to recognize people in the community and the good things they've done," Havel said. "It's a collection of community groups that have been involved over the years."
The collection is not necessarily complete, but Riverwalk commissioners say it fits the community and they want to retain that fit as they work toward a policy governing review of new additions.
"It's not to dissuade anybody, but we just want to make sure the Riverwalk doesn't become overcrowded or a hodgepodge," Havel said. "In my mind, it's really just keeping the balance of what the Riverwalk is."
Only what fits
The most recent request to come before the Riverwalk Commission involved a proposal from the ThinkGlobalArts Foundation to install a peace pole surrounded by a garden near the Riverwalk Grand Pavilion and a plaque designating a "peace tree."
Commissioners considered the request in July but determined there was not enough time to sufficiently review it before the Sept. 21 scheduled celebration of the International Day of Peace.
Some were not sure the peace pole and garden would fit in where the ThinkGlobalArts Foundation proposed, since the "peace tree" sits within a grove of similar foliage and may unduly stand out if anything else is added.
But when an addition seems like it will blend in well, Riverwalk commissioners don't hesitate. That was the case with a sculpture of a soldier's boots, rifle and helmet added Memorial Day to the Exchange Club Veteran's Plaza.
Siwik and Havel said the Riverwalk is meant to be enjoyed by exercisers, people taking relaxing strolls and those who want to reflect on Naperville's history or contributions of the many groups represented on the path.
"Even though we have certain areas named, we try to do that in a very classy, professional manner so that it fits in with the structures and it's not flashy," Siwik said.
Policy and process
At a meeting Tuesday morning, members of the Riverwalk Commission's planning, design and construction committee will begin reviewing a policy drafted by Commissioner Dick Galitz that spells out how the group should examine future proposals.
Galitz says the policy creates a "logical" progression through different layers of the commission, park board and city council for written proposals explaining the additions groups would like to make to the path. If the planning, design and construction committee approves the policy, the full commission could adopt it later this month.
Siwik said written proposals should include the cost of the proposed element and how it would be funded. The commission also would consider maintenance costs and whether the sculpture, bench, sign, memorial or other idea will fit in with the Riverwalk's established blend of offerings.
"It's got to be in keeping with the history and traditions of Naperville," Riverwalk and park board Commissioner Gerry Heide said. Otherwise, he said, "I think that turns it into a carnival, which we definitely don't want."
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