ALGONQUIN – Algonquin officials and business owners are banking on the Fox River to revive the village’s downtown.
Among the recommendations in a study completed last year was enhancing opportunities along the river as a way of attracting people to the downtown. The plan includes adding more boat slips, building a paddle park for whitewater kayaking, tubing, rafting and kayak rentals along the river, and developing a creek walk.
The village, along with Carpentersville, the Kane County Forest Preserve and McHenry County Conservation District, also is working on a Fox River Corridor Plan to find ways to increase access to the river, improve water quality and enhance the two downtown areas.
“We’re hoping that we’ll have a corridor plan that will encourage people to come visit,” Algonquin Senior Planner Ben Mason said.
Access to the waterway is considered a dominant asset for the village.
Mason said during the downtown planning study process, it was brought up that there are some places where it is hard for beginning kayakers to get in the river.
“Ideally, for someone who is new, they can push off from the shore, from a beach area that is more flat,” Mason said.
He said people can consider spending the afternoon paddling down the river, maybe having lunch, and biking along the trail back to where they parked their cars.
“There are some real possibilities working beyond our village,” Mason said. “The dam in Algonquin and the dam in Carpentersville create a 5-mile area.”
The downtown study recommended the addition of canoe and kayak launch points south of the dam, as well as installation of additional boat slips north of the dam to attract boaters and other patrons to downtown restaurants and businesses during the summer months.
Those recommendations might end up as part of the Fox River Corridor Plan as well, Mason said.
There are 160 boat slips in Algonquin, said Ericson Marine Owner Don Ericson. Additional boat slips are recommended to be at south end of Riverfront Park.
The village downtown plan also included suggestions to enhance Crystal Creek, including with the development of a “creek walk.”
The creek walk would be along the northern bank. It could start at the existing pedestrian bridge in the northwestern part of Towne Park. The downtown plan suggests the creek walk follow the natural curves of the waterway and link to the municipal parking lot behind the historic village hall.
Also suggested was an “outdoor center,” perhaps at Cornish Park, to provide opportunities for whitewater kayaking, tubing, rafting and kayak rentals along the river.
At this time, the village is not pursuing any businesses to open up a water-tubing type of business. Carrying out these plans would cost money.
Putting in a creek walk and associated access points could cost between $1.75 million and $2.525 million.
Opening a outdoor water center could cost between $175,000 to $300,000.
Ericson said the ideas would be useful.
“They can walk downtown and eat,” Ericson said. “More people here will rub off on our business and introduce people to boating.”
Cathy Neuhalfen, a downtown business owner, said she hopes to see the village make the plan a priority and take action.
“Plans are good, but they need to be in place so we can get more foot traffic in downtown Algonquin,” she said.
Neuhalfen owns Interesting Developments Photography and, with partner Tara Storm, CaTara Skin Rejuvenation Spa.
Other business owners also want to see parts of the plan move forward.
“We liked a lot of the village’s ideas, especially additional boat slips,” said Charles Kaskadden, assistant general manager at Port Edward Restaurant. “A public boat dock could attract a lot more of the boating community. It would be a great asset for downtown Algonquin.”
Kaskadden said boaters are a major source of revenue for the 50-year-old restaurant.