What should Naperville Riverwalk be like by 2031? A wish list is circulating

  • Accessibility improvements along the Naperville Riverwalk at Eagle Street, an area that lacks ramps, are listed in a draft of a 2031 master plan for the popular waterfront path that is circulating among Naperville service groups and governmental agencies for feedback.

    Accessibility improvements along the Naperville Riverwalk at Eagle Street, an area that lacks ramps, are listed in a draft of a 2031 master plan for the popular waterfront path that is circulating among Naperville service groups and governmental agencies for feedback. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Ideas to enhance the experience along the Naperville Riverwalk are listed in a draft of a 2031 master plan for the path that is now under review.

    Ideas to enhance the experience along the Naperville Riverwalk are listed in a draft of a 2031 master plan for the path that is now under review. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/17/2020 6:22 AM

A wish list of possible improvements to the Naperville Riverwalk is in the works as the city looks toward its 200th birthday in 2031.

The Riverwalk Commission, the body that oversees the path, is circulating a draft of its Riverwalk Master Plan 2031 among Naperville governing bodies and service clubs. The 21-page document addresses conditions along and ideas for the 1.75-mile path as it meanders northwest to southeast through downtown Naperville along the shores of the West Branch of the DuPage River.

 

The purpose of the plan, commission Chairman Geoff Roehll said, is to spell out ideas Riverwalk stewards have to enhance the linear park so groups interested in helping out can know what is desired.

The commission has seen ideas for amenities, such as the Naperville Jaycees Park Wi-Fi workspace and the Rotary Harmony Park, spring up the other way around -- brought forward by service groups and then worked into plans for the path. So now, Roehll said, the commission wants to get its own ideas on paper.

There are no priorities spelled out in the draft and no cost estimates, just ideas or what Roehll calls "little small pieces that added together are what we think the Riverwalk will look like in 2031."

The commission that oversees the Riverwalk in Naperville is working on a master plan listing potential improvements to the 1.75-mile path that could be added before the city's 200th birthday in 2031.
The commission that oversees the Riverwalk in Naperville is working on a master plan listing potential improvements to the 1.75-mile path that could be added before the city's 200th birthday in 2031. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
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The plan seeks to answer "how can we make the experience on the Riverwalk better," he said.

The document includes lists of current and future attractions along the path, which was created by volunteers in 1981 for Naperville's 150th birthday. Detail pages show illustrations of each new idea.

Among them are improvements to the Riverwalk Grand Pavilion, a shelter west of Centennial Beach that serves as the starting point for many a charity walk in nonpandemic times, and extension of the path south to Martin Avenue, a move that gained conceptual approval in 2014 but that has yet to occur.

The Riverwalk Grand Pavilion is among sites listed for potential improvement in a draft of a 2031 master plan for the popular path along the West Branch of the DuPage River through downtown Naperville.
The Riverwalk Grand Pavilion is among sites listed for potential improvement in a draft of a 2031 master plan for the popular path along the West Branch of the DuPage River through downtown Naperville. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Also listed are improvements to overlook points along quarry shores, ecological restoration to prevent erosion, accessibility improvements at Eagle Street, creation of an artist's nook at a bend in the river, and enhancements to gateway areas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The plan addresses gaps between Main and Washington streets and at 430 S. Washington St., a site where the city and North Central College plan a future park and plaza.

Mary Lou Wehrli, a Naperville resident and DuPage Forest Preserve commissioner, is among the first to review the draft master plan and share comments.

Wehrli said she appreciates the commission's proactive look toward the future, but she fears the plan could read too much like "a development document." The Riverwalk, she said, should aim to better connect people in a suburban environment to the sounds and scenes of nature.

"To me, the main points are to be ecologically inclusive, historically accurate, informative and inspiring," Wehrli said.

The Riverwalk Commission plans to seek feedback for roughly the next six weeks, then make amendments to the draft of the master plan. The full commission could discuss it in August or September, then send it to the city council for future review and approval.

Roehll said the aim is to update the master plan yearly, if necessary, so it can continue to list upcoming ideas to improve the path.

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