Kankakee’s ambitious Riverwalk plan drew fire from social media when plans calling for the baseball field at Alpiner Park to become an amphitheater became public. The Hitchcock Design group is basing its vision for the project on research carried out about how people currently use and have access to the river, as well as how they would like to enjoy future use of the waterway.
The goal of the Riverwalk is to open the Kankakee River’s access to more citizens while opening the door for Kankakee to be a travel destination for recreation. Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong addressed the Park Board in public comments at the start of the meeting.
The Mayor acknowledged that Alpiner would stay a baseball field. Dayna Heitz, the Executive Director of Kankakee Valley Park District, reports an application to list Alpiner as a listing in the Register of Historic Places is pending. Acceptance will ensure permanency for the park which has hosted baseball for almost 100 years.
The Mayor acknowledges the City needs the Park District approval to move forward with the project. She told commissioners that she recognizes who maintains the facility is still an open question, but indicates a board independent of the City, and comprised of City Officials, Park Board members, as well as individuals from the community will address these issues before building starts.
She further reports, the city began acquiring and destroying structures in the river’s flood plain paid for by a Federal Emergency Management Administration grant. Four structures within the boundary of the proposed plan are outside the FEMA limits, and the City is working on resolving ownership of the properties.
Earlier this year, the city approved a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District for the project. Within the TIF boundaries, property taxes collected are earmarked for exclusive use by the TIF Board, and not shared with other taxing authorities.
In her presentation, the Mayor publicly acknowledges the project is based on the cooperation of all the parties and reached out to the Park District with her acknowledgment of issues raised by opponents that the City was making plans for the land they do not own or control.
The Mayor also disclosed that an Illinois architectural association is giving Hitchcock Design an award for the proposed Riverwalk. Supporters say having something architecturally significant will help in promoting the walk as a tourist destination.
In other Park District news, recovery from harsh economic times is ongoing. Commissioner Don Palmer brought up Splash Valley and concern about the distance from the City to the facility once it is open. J. J. Hollis reminded the board that in the past, River Valley Metro gave free rides to kids going from town to Splash Valley. He also noted the bike trail from Kankakee connects with the facility. Splash Valley is on schedule to reopen in 2020.