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North Aurora group aims to bring people back to riverfront

Published: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 3:44 p.m. CDT
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(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Last year, the North Aurora River District Alliance installed an interactive water feature called Water Wonders. The artificial stream reuses rainwater collected from the roof of North Aurora Village Hall to display several acquatic ecosystems.

NORTH AURORA – As Kelly Krystinak eyed the Water Wonders interactive stream at North Aurora Riverfront Park, she thought it would be the perfect place for an outing.

“We were looking for a nice place to picnic,” said Krystinak, who is a nanny and brought the two children she was watching to the park on a recent sunny day. “I like the fact that it’s natural. It’s something different for them.”

The Water Wonders project is one way one the North Aurora River District Alliance is trying to get people back to the village’s riverfront. And the group continues to work on ways to provide more recreational opportunities along that stretch of the Fox River.

The effort is an attempt to increase interest in the riverfront and make it a destination area, something officials say could be improved.

Last year, construction was completed on the group’s Water Wonders project, which involved the construction of a 125-foot artificial stream that reuses rainwater collected from the roof of North Aurora Village Hall to display several aquatic ecosystems.

“I think it is working out very well,” said Jennifer Duncan, alliance chairman. “I love being there and seeing the look on kids’ faces when they see it.”

The nonprofit alliance was formed in 2009, and the group is an outgrowth of a study the village had commissioned looking at how to beautify the village’s riverfront.

“We would like people to turn their faces back to the Fox River,” Duncan said.

In the past few years, the alliance has worked with the village and the Fox Valley Park District to provide more reasons for people to come to North Aurora Riverfront Park and nearby North Aurora Island Park. The alliance oversaw the construction of an overlook that was installed at Riverfront Park in 2009, and the park district in recent years has replaced the playground at North Aurora Island Park and built a new picnic shelter and riverfront plaza.

The alliance wants to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross State Street, which separates Riverfront Park from North Aurora Island Park.

Push-button signs will be installed this fall as part of a pedestrian crossing.

“It’s a dangerous spot,” Duncan said. “It’s an existing crosswalk, but it is poorly marked.”

The alliance also has been working to get more people to come down to the riverwalk through its Rhythm on the Riverfront summer concert series, which just wrapped up its second season.

“The concerts have been going very nicely,” Duncan said. “It’s just getting the word out. “We’re planning to do it again next year.”

The Fox Valley Park District, which serves North Aurora, Aurora, Montgomery and several unincorporated areas, shared in the cost of the Water Wonders project. Fox Valley Park District public relations manager Jeff Long said the park district shares in the desire to bring more people to North Aurora’s riverfront.

“The park district was formed in 1947 to preserve riverside frontage and make it accessible for all of the residents,” Long said. “The park district owns and maintains 22 miles of shoreline. That’s a lot of river frontage that’s been made publicly accessible.”

The park district is considering an idea to put in a kayak launch on North Aurora Island Park’s east side, Long said.

North Aurora Island Park is well used, especially on the weekends, Long said.

“It is one of our most popular parks on the weekend,” Long said. “We wanted to make it bigger and better for the large gatherings that are there.”

North Aurora Village President Dale Berman commended the riverfront improvements that have been made in recent years.

But he said that development of the riverfront won’t really take off until more housing is built in areas near the Fox River.

“There needs to be a concentration of people there,” Berman said. “It’s not a destination point now.”

North Aurora village trustees in 2004 approved a plan to build 44 luxury townhouse units along the Fox River, just north of North Aurora Village Hall. That development was scuttled following the housing crisis that took place in recent years.

Berman said the village will be talking about the village’s riverfront as it updates its comprehensive plan and develops the village’s first strategic plan in coming months.

“I don’t see us doing anything significant there until we get the funds to do it,” Berman said.

On the Web

Want to learn more about the North Aurora River District Alliance? Go to www.noarda.org.

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