Picture this. You walk or bike along the Fox River in Geneva through a beautiful park setting, with some residential and commercial buildings nearby.
There's a nice pavilion and washroom facilities, and maybe a small snack bar open during the summer and fall months. The path winds to the south past the government center complex and onto Third Street in Geneva.
The city and park district promote it to locals and tourists as a key trail loop in the area, one that shouldn't be missed while you are in town.
Well, we sort of have that already, except one thing. Island Park in Geneva is under water quite often during the course of a year. So much so, that it is far from the "destination" location it could be.
I snapped the photos accompanying this column item today to illustrate the problem, but also to show I wasn't just shooting my mouth off when saying any plans to redevelop the adjoining former Mill Race property can't do much more damage to Island Park than what it already suffers.
In fact, I felt any redevelopment on that site could maybe help with some drainage issues, particularly under the State Street bridge, where water sits far more often and far longer than it has in the past.
"If you watch the Fox River, sometimes the flooding in Island Park is caused by rain in our area, but often times it is caused by the flooding to the north, even from Wisconsin," said Sheavoun Lambillotte, executive director of the Geneva Park District. "That happens at least a couple of times a year now."
The park district will pay close attention to what happens at the Mill Race site, but it is too early to say for sure what that will mean for Island Park, Lambillotte added.
"Any time you replace permeable with nonpermeable surfaces, that creates more water in the river," she said, referring to blacktop or concrete replacing grass.
The park district will work on Island Park regardless of what happens through nearby construction, with the goal of getting water off it as soon as possible through underground drainage.
"We also have to reinforce the entire east wall to slow the deterioration from the overflow from the river," Lambillotte said.
It's an expensive project, but one that needs to be done over the next few years, she added.
Geneva Alderman Dean Kilburg understands the value Island Park can have for the community.
"The park and river area are great elements of Geneva's beauty that are underappreciated and underutilized," Kilburg said. "My vision is maybe a monthly concert in the park on a much smaller scale than, say, a Ravinia," Kilburg said.
"If the Mill Race project moves forward, there would be impact fees that would benefit both the park and school districts."
As for immediate help, Kilburg agrees, "tiling and increasing the height of the retaining walls would certainly provide some additional relief from the water."
There are many factors in the talking stage regarding the residential areas and walking bridges that connect to the trail. It all points toward Mill Race project and Island Park planners benefiting through mutual discussions, knowing that any development would "naturally tie into possible Island Park upgrades," Kilburg added.
It doesn't take much to realize Geneva is somehow missing opportunities for community interaction along the river beyond the Island Park woes and the small River Park setting on the north side of State Street.
One only has to look at how St. Charles and Batavia have made the most of their Fox River access and settings.
It's about the scarecrows: When making your way through downtown St. Charles this weekend, you may wonder why it is so crowded. That would mean you've been way out of touch for too long. Or you just moved here in the past few weeks or so.
For the past 34 years, St. Charles has been crawling with local residents and visitors for the annual St. Charles Scarecrow Festival.
And you'll notice those scarecrows lined up for all to see in Lincoln Park, right in front of St. Patrick's Church, between Cedar and Main streets.
Take your young ones to this event. They will love it.
For those interested in a little historical background, we don't want to forget that resident Jean Becker came back from a trip on the East Coast all excited to tell her fellow St. Charles Convention and Visitor's Bureau members about a scarecrow festival she went to.
From that point on, it has become one of the state's biggest events, and a showcase for St. Charles when the weather here should be on its very best behavior in early October. "Should be" are the key words there.
The event is now in the capable hands of the St. Charles Business Alliance, an organization that came about earlier this year when the visitors' bureau and the St. Charles Downtown Partnership merged.
Chuck E. brand power: In noticing some facade work taking place on the Chuck E. Cheese's kids' pizza haven on Randall Road in Batavia, it struck me that this franchise has been around a long time.
Of course, it hasn't been at 511 N. Randall Road for the entire time, but Chuck E. Cheese's and its smiling mouse logo representing Chuck E. himself has been in operation since 1977.
With all of the retail stores and chains that have gone under, filed for bankruptcy or suffered through plenty of rough earnings calls, this wonderland for kids continues to go strong.
When the target audience is children, I guess a retailer doesn't have to worry about fickle adults changing buying habits in order to stay afloat. Put fun games, a funny looking mouse character and pizza all in the same place at the same time and the kids will come marching in.
Looking quite good: Modern graphic design tools can highlight artist's renditions of upcoming developments with amazing detail. So much so, that they almost look like the real thing.
You may get that feeling when looking at the St. Charles city Facebook page and glancing at what the Stone Creek retail strip will look like when work is done there on the east side of the city.
I mentioned this project a few weeks ago now, but for those who maybe missed it, Stone Creek will be the name of the new setup at the longtime Tin Cup Pass retail area in St. Charles.
The design that developers are envisioning is quite a dramatic change, one that area residents should find quite pleasing.
Plus, remember, the area will be anchored by what appears to be another nice entry on our breakfast restaurant scene when Southern Café eventually takes the spot that Gino's East most recently left.