New Fox River project ramps up in St. Charles

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – A project aimed at using the Fox River for more recreation and economic growth gained the support of the St. Charles Park District on Tuesday.

The Park District Board at its regular meeting voted 5-0 in favor of joining a task force for the Active River Project. Board President Karrsten Goettel and Commissioner Brian Charles were absent.

The Active River Project aims to utilize the Fox River as an economic and recreational engine to improve St. Charles, said John Rabchuk, treasurer of the St. Charles River Corridor Foundation. The foundation developed the project in the past few years and now it is ready to share with the public.

Potential options for the Fox River include white water environments, interactive water playgrounds, floating gardens and more. Rabchuk presented information on all these options during Tuesday’s park district board meeting.

“We haven’t really utilized the river to its fullest extent,” Rabchuk said.

Park Board members like Bob Carne agreed.

There could be more recreational sporting events and more tourist attractions along the river, Board Treasurer Carne said. Carne was glad to hear about the successes of other river initiatives such as WaterFire in Providence, R.I. WaterFire started as a public art installation and grew into a recurring event that draws thousands of people throughout the year.

The Park District Board vote also included an agreement in concept that the district would provide some level of funding for the project once more specifics are known. The foundation hopes to move quickly in the coming weeks so supporters can make their first attempt at getting financial support for the project, Rabchuk said. Applications for the Kane County Riverboat Fund Program, which includes money that could apply to the project, are due by April 7, according to the county website.

With the Park District on board for the task force, the River Corridor Foundation will next look to add St. Charles city officials and the Forest Preserve District to the group.

The foundation wants to have the river’s major stakeholders together to work on the project parameters and hopefully invite request for proposals for conceptual plans and cost estimates during the summer, Rabchuk said.

The foundation has shared its plan with St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina, some city staff and a few aldermen, but Rabchuk hopes to present to the full St. Charles City Council in the next few weeks.