The River Corridor Foundation of St. Charles wants to improve accessibility to the Fox River.
Specifically, the nonprofit group is looking at how to improve accessibility from Illinois Street south to the pedestrian bridge along the Fox River’s east bank in downtown St. Charles. The group’s mission is to support and advocate for projects that will enhance the downtown riverfront environment as a destination for cultural, educational, recreational and economic opportunities that are accessible to all.
John Rabchuk, a member of the board of directors for the River Corridor Foundation, made a presentation at the St. Charles City Council’s Government Operations Committee meeting Sept. 19 and planned to address the St. Charles Park Board at its Sept. 27 meeting.
Rabchuk said that stretch of the riverfront has some major issues.
“One of the biggest issues is that a long time ago, somebody in the city decided that in order to prevent erosion of the riverbank that they would take all the broken concrete from digging up sidewalks or pavement and piled it up on the shoreline,” Rabchuk said. “So it’s all broken concrete. It has served its purpose in that it has prevented erosion, I guess, but it’s ugly as all get out and I know the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not let you do that today.”
Rabchuk said the broken concrete is an obstacle to those who would like to get closer to the Fox River.
“There are people that would like to get down there and do things, but it’s really treacherous to walk on the broken concrete,” he said.
He also noted the bike path in that area is very narrow.
“It’s right against the road, Riverside, so it’s kind of dangerous,” Rabchuk said.
The River Corridor Foundation would hire an engineer to draw up two or three detailed concept plans.
One idea is to replace the concrete with limestone steps that would lead people down to the Fox River.
“That doesn’t solve the issue with the bike path, but it would be much more attractive,” Rabchuk said.
Another idea is to install a cantilevered concrete walkway.
“It would lean out over the top of the Fox River and allow you to widen the bike path and put in some seating and some plantings, etc.,” he said. “It would create a much wider area for people to maneuver, both bicycles and pedestrians. Those are just some ideas of ways we could help address these issues with that section of the riverbank.”
An advisory committee would set the priorities for the project, including whether it is more important to widen the bike path or provide access to the Fox River.
“We would hire an engineering firm and they will come back to us with two or three plans and this committee will select the one that we think is the best,” Rabchuk said. “We’ll also run that by the city and the park district to make sure they are in concurrence.”
The group is looking to apply for grants and do fundraising to pay for the project, he said.
Rabchuk expects the concept plans could be done before the end of the year.
“We think we might be able to pull off this whole project without requiring any money from the city or park district,” Rabchuk said.
The River Corridor Foundation recently installed five new benches at Langum Park near the Fox River and constructed a limestone outcropping with a concrete approach to allow access to and facilitate launching of non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks and canoes.
“We put that in and that’s been very popular,” Rabchuk said.
One of the initiatives of the River Corridor Foundation is the Active River Project, a multimillion project to replace the existing dam in downtown St. Charles with whitewater and recreational channels, a recreational zip line above the Fox River and other improvements. The project’s aim is to increase recreation possibilities on the Fox River and to make the river corridor a destination hub.
The project, estimated to cost between $20 million to $22 million, has not moved forward because of a lack of funding.