Riverwalk garden to honor leader who helped path grow

A spot along the Naperville Riverwalk where a garden was blocking a scenic view instead of adding to it is being reborn this spring in honor of a longtime Riverwalk advocate.

Cliff Preston, who died last June at age 90, will be honored with a fresh garden along the popular path on the west side of Eagle Street near the Paddleboat Quarry.

"We knew he would be pleased that we're not doing something 'special,'" said Chuck Papanos, park operations manager in charge of the Riverwalk for the Naperville Park District.

The area just south of the DuPage River and across the street from the Naperville municipal center isn't a "special" project because it needed some attention anyway, Riverwalk Administrator Jan Erickson said. And the spot, because of its location near a fishing pier and a horse plow statue, combines Preston's interests in fishing and supporting Naperville's farming community.

So when donations started flowing in to the Riverwalk Foundation in Preston's honor, officials knew just what to do. They planned to replant the roughly 30-year-old section of garden and rededicate the area as a memorial to Preston later this year.

The remembrance is deserved "because of all that Cliff has done for the Riverwalk and the community at large," Erickson said.

Preston served on the Riverwalk Commission for 17 years beginning in 1987, many of them as chairman.

He oversaw the path's western expansion through Sindt Woods to Jefferson Avenue and helped ensure use of the brick pavers that have become its signature style. He then led the extension of the path east and south from Washington Street to Hillside Road and convinced fellow Grace United Methodist Church member Rita Harvard to donate land that later became Fredenhagen Park.

Landscapers on Thursday began planting trees and flowers that will beautify the $10,000 memorial garden including Happidaze sweet gum trees, which turn a bright red in the fall, and China Snow Peking lilacs, which bloom white in the spring.

"The whole idea was to put some very colorful plants there that would make the area very pretty," Erickson said. "The other part of the design was to open up the vista."

Behind the garden lies the park district's paddleboat quarry and a fishing pier. Before, the view was blocked by vegetation. But now, even with the trees growing, Erickson said passers-by along the Riverwalk and Eagle Street will be able to more easily see the water.

Naperville's Preston was 'all in' for building community

  A plaza south of the DuPage River near Paddleboat Quarry and the Naperville municipal center is getting fresh flowers and plants as landscapers Thursday work to turn it into the Cliff Preston Memorial. Preston, who died in June 2016 at age 90, was a carpenter and business owner who helped design, build and maintain the Riverwalk since its creation in 1981. Marie Wilson/
Cliff Preston served on the <a href="">Riverwalk Commission</a> for 17 years beginning in 1987, many of them as chairman Daily Herald file photo, 2002
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