Future of the Fox River: Ideas flow in for potential improvements
A lot of brain power from community groups and government entities continues to flow into ideas and plans for enhancing activities and healthy lifestyles with the Fox River at its core.
The key now is to transfer that brain power into physical improvements, but mostly to educate residents about the potential benefits of what is going on.
Those in the Tri-Cities region see this sort of thing going on with the St. Charles Active River Project, which essentially calls for creating easier access to the river, more activities and facilities targeting use of the river, and connecting walking and biking trails on both sides of the river.
In short, it goes a long way toward promoting those health and recreation options while enjoying the river. In some ways, it's a throwback to the 1930s and '40s when people from throughout Chicagoland came to enjoy boating, fishing and picnicking along the Fox River in numbers that made it a key tourist attraction.
The River Corridor Foundation is doing plenty of the heavy lifting on this St. Charles project, along with the city, park district and Conservation Foundation.
Nearly everything the River Corridor Foundation is doing has an eye toward the project -- and educating others about it.
To that end, the foundation, with the help of the park district and Conservation Foundation, will begin its "A River Flows Through It" free lecture series next week, first tackling the important and interesting topic of the Fox River dams and the potential for their removal.
"The idea for the lectures came up during a River Corridor meeting where we explored ideas on how to keep the river and riverfront in the forefront of conversations," said John Rabchuk of the River Corridor Foundation. "We still hope to see part or all of the Active River Project implemented someday and we thought that providing a forum for the community to learn more about the many aspects of the river's impact on our lives could help serve that purpose."
After the Conservation Foundation approached the River Corridor Foundation with its desire for environmental education about the river, it was "a natural marriage," Rabchuk added.
On the topic of dams, river biodiversity experts agree that over time those dams have become obsolete. This can be relatively shocking news for those of us who live along the Fox River. After all, there are 10 dams between Carpentersville and Yorkville.
Those in the Tri-Cities have lived with the dams in St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia for several decades. With no specific value or positive trait, and also realizing they are dangerous, the dams simply serve as kind of a "cool" thing to look at from a distance.
They generate a noise level that reminds you these are river towns but otherwise don't do much. In the mid to late 1800s, the dams played an important role in generating power for nearby industries and were helpful in flood control.
There's a lot more to the story of our dams than the current fact that the dam in Carpentersville is slated for removal sometime this year and talks about removal in St. Charles and Batavia have surfaced on occasion. For example, how does one go about removing a dam?
The foundation hopes to answer any questions residents might have about the dams along the Fox with the "Dam Night Out" presentation from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, at the Baker Community Center in St. Charles.
"The lectures have been very popular as we average roughly 80 attendees per session and we've had to reserve much larger rooms than we did for the first year," Rabchuk noted. Those interested in any of the sessions can just show up, but also have the option to register through the foundation's brochures.
All of the upcoming presentations are from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Baker Community Center, except the Wednesday, Feb. 15 lecture by Pam Otto of the St. Charles Park District about the endangered species along the Fox. That one takes place at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center at 3795 Campton Hills Road in St. Charles.
Other topics will include a history of the early residents and visitors in the Fox River Valley on Wednesday, March 15, with speaker Josee Starr of the Mitchel Museum of the American Indian. On April 19, the Kane County Audubon Society will discuss birds of the Fox Valley.
Ryan Solomon of the St. Charles Park District will discuss how fishing on the Fox River has improved in recent years, on Wednesday, May 17.
Residents interested in the Active River Project can learn more at stcharlesactiveriver.org.
In the meantime, the River Corridor is working with city and park district to form a committee to further explore trail designs on the east side of the Fox River from the pedestrian bridge to Illinois Street and farther north through St. Charles. One idea being floated is for bikers and walkers to eventually go through downtown under the Main Street bridge, rather than trying to cross Main Street traffic.
Places for defunct lights
Prior to the holidays, I mentioned that the Lowe's in St. Charles was going to have a drop-off box for recycling Christmas lights.
Readers have reminded me that the Kane County Recycling Centers also accept string lights that don't survive the holiday season.
If you have bad lights that are part of a standing holiday decoration, the recycling centers require you to remove those lights from the decorations before dropping them off.
The recycling centers also accept projector lights that have worn out, air pumps from inflatable decorations and extension cords.
You can find the location of a recycling center near you at kanecountyconnects.com.
Leaving us in 2023
It's probably not the best start to 2023 for diners who spend time at restaurants along Third Street in Geneva.
The news that Fiora's, one of the finest settings for outdoor dining in the region, was closing because of the owner's health issues came about shortly after hearing the Doughocracy pizza restaurant at 407 S. Third St. was also shutting down.
So, first let's start with the confessions: I never did get a chance to try Doughocracy, and I haven't been at Fiora's in many years. But these places both had good reputations. In fact, I did a reader survey about five years ago about favorite places for outdoor dining and Fiora's garnered the most mentions.
Under normal circumstances, one would think both of these locations would be filled quickly by other restaurant groups.
But opening a new restaurant has never been easy. It's harder now, with supply, labor, economic and health issues.
Still, we've been fortunate in the Tri-Cities that those who own and operate restaurants have generally found this area to be quite receptive to new places, new cuisine and well-operated eateries.
Chicken salad debut
After about a month's delay, the Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in Batavia recently had its soft opening and followed that up with its official opening a few days ago.
The early reviews on Facebook were no surprise. People love their chicken salad, as well as the other offerings on the menu.
Owners Kim and Garrett Seaman have a good thing going at the 220 N. Randall Road site near Menard's. The first thing I would say is the work on the building has been a major improvement, which helps catch the eye of those driving along Randall.
It also seems as if the Chicken Salad Chick corporate folks in Atlanta have expansion and growth on their minds. They say they want to expand their current number of 200 franchises to 500 by the end of 2025.
A focus on coats
That ghastly blast of polar air we endured just before the holidays brought our attention to coats. We all had to pull the warmest gear we own out of the closet for at least a few days.
But imagine being a young child with nothing in the closet that could possibly contend with the winter months.
The St. Charles Breakfast Rotary Club went about making sure that wouldn't be the case for many kids this winter. Through more than 90 donors, the club raised more than $18,000 to provide more than 500 new coats to Tri-Cities children in need.
Wendy Gruber, associate director of Lazarus House homeless shelter in St. Charles, said the coats delivered to Lazarus came in handy even for those not at the shelter.
She said a man had come to the shelter on a cold day, wearing only a sweatshirt. He was not eligible to stay at Lazarus, but workers at the shelter gifted him a new coat, for which he was extremely grateful, Gruber said.