Naperville Riverwalk Turns 40

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In 1981 Naperville’s Riverwalk was created to honor the city’s 150th anniversary.

Back then plans only included a small area, which is now known as the section that houses the Dandelion Fountain. Fast-forward 40 years later, and it has become so much more.

Naperville Riverwalk Amenities

The brick path of the Riverwalk stretches for almost two miles, featuring fountains, bridges, artwork, memorials, recreational facilities and an overall welcoming place for community members.

“It became the cornerstone of Naperville’s brand,” said Rick Hitchcock, the former chair of Naperville’s Riverwalk Commission. “There’s lots of riverwalks in the country, but everybody knows the Naperville Riverwalk. It isn’t the biggest, it isn’t the flashiest, it isn’t the oldest, but what it did for this town is it became part of its brand. In my view, [it’s] clearly the city’s most prominent cultural attraction.”

It’s hard to argue Hitchcock’s point of view, since it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of people visit Naperville’s Riverwalk each year.

It offers community members a chance to slow down and take a relaxing stroll, sit down and chat with a friend, admire the DuPage River and the animals that inhabit it, share memories at the numerous events that are held there, and of course provides a wonderful place to take some pictures.

Changes Over The Years

“It’s been interesting to kind of watch it grow as a resident,” said Tom Stibbe, the parks operations manager for the Naperville Park District. “It started when I was in college so when I came back it was here and I just kind of watched [it] grow from there. You can go around the beach, go to [the] other side near Rotary Hill, and then in 2000 it went down south to Hillside.”

Stibbe and his team at the Naperville Park District are tasked with maintaining and preserving the aesthetic of the Riverwalk.

2031 Masterplan

They have also offered input to the site’s 2031 Masterplan, which aims to celebrate the Riverwalk’s 50th anniversary by honoring the past, present, and future.

“We put in a lot of projects, some on the smaller end some on the larger more ambitious end to hopefully engage our community in different ways,” said Pat Kennedy, current Chair of the Naperville Riverwalk Commission. So if you’re interested in figuring out how to help participate in a smaller project or you’re part of an organization and you think you’d like [to] come alongside for a little longer term commitment that’s what I’m out talking about, and I think our commission is excited about making things happen for the future of the Riverwalk.”

The 2031 Riverwalk Master Plan can be viewed on the city’s website.

Kennedy encouraged community members to share their Riverwalk stories by sending them to the commissions’ email, which can be found on the city’s website.

On Labor Day, Sept. 6. at 2 p.m., the Riverwalk Commission and Riverwalk Foundation will host a very brief “Happy 40th Birthday to the Naperville Riverwalk” with coupons for cake and ice cream, just east of the Dandelion Fountain on the north side of the path.

Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.


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