Last section of McHenry Riverwalk, with $1.5 million construction price tag, receives council OK

Future development could lead to later expansion

People walk along McHenry's Riverwalk by Boone Creek from Miller Point on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

Construction on the final phase of McHenry’s riverwalk is set to begin in March and wrap up in September, completing its connection between Webers Park and Green Street.

McHenry City Council voted 6-1 Monday to spend $1.5 million to complete the downtown amenity that had its first section built in 2005. That bid came in $400,000 lower than the engineer’s estimate.

Alderwoman Chris Bassi, Ward 4, was the lone dissenting vote.

“My vote Monday night was consistent with the statement made at the Nov. 6 meeting – that Ward 4 cannot support using additional taxpayer money on the riverwalk until the neighborhood parks are safe and usable,” Bassi said in a prepared statement.

This portion of the riverwalk has been saved for last as “it is the trickiest section. There is a lot going on here,” Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson told the council. It runs 460 feet along the Fox River and is about twice the length of the section between Pearl Street and Webers Park built in 2022. That section had a $600,000 price tag.

It is the trickiest section. There is a lot going on here.”

—  Bill Hobson, McHenry Parks and Recreation director

The section set for construction this year, known as Phase 4, connects the riverwalk from the Route 120 bridge to the Pearl Street bridge and runs behind several private parcels, said John Smith, president of the McHenry Riverwalk Foundation. He has been part of negotiations to secure easements from those landowners since the association formed in 1999.

It is likely not the last section of riverwalk for McHenry, however.

The very first riverwalk design, envisioned in the early 2000s, called for the path to run from Webers Park to Route 120, Smith said.

If riverwalk construction requires another phase, the plan is for a short path on the south side of Boone Creek west of the Green Street bridge and behind 1111 N. Green St. Another path would go on the north side of the creek, running from Green Street to Route 120, Smith said.

Connecting those two sections would be a piece of McHenry history: the Pearl Street bridge.

Replaced in the late 1970s, the Pearl Street bridge was a three-span, open-truss bridge built in the winter of 1880-1881.

Removal of the bridge was controversial, Smith said. In an attempt to prevent its replacement, officials recommended its inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge, which only allowed one car in either direction, eventually was removed in sections before being labeled and stored, Smith said.

One of the sections now can be found on the TC Industries property on Route 31 in Crystal Lake. McHenry has been storing the other sections since then, and the city plans to use it as a pedestrian bridge connecting the two side of the riverwalk west of Green Street, Smith said.

The matters of when and if those sections of riverwalk are completed depend on what is built in those two parts of downtown, Smith said. “We have an idea of what we can do.”