Danville’s application for riverfront-path grant is a plan with a view

via The News-Gazette

In December 2015, when University of Illinois graduate students presented their designs for a 12-acre area along the Vermilion River to city officials, at least one incorporated an observation tower giving a bird’s-eye view of the deep river channel that winds through the city’s downtown area.

That feature will now be part of a $200,000 Recreational Trails grant application being written this week by Steve Lane of the city’s parks department.

Aldermen gave city officials the green light Tuesday to apply for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources grant. The state would reimburse the city up to $200,000 in expenses while the city must provide a 20 percent match that would come from funds generated by its downtown tax-increment-financing district and in-house labor, Lane said.

“We just want to get something going,” Lane said of the city’s long-term goal to develop the riverfront. “This is a good first step. It’s a visible project.”

The Vermilion River is roughly 80 feet below street level in downtown Danville, and that elevation difference, along with its tree-lined banks, doesn’t provide easily accessible views of the river, a convergence of the Salt Fork, Middle Fork and North Fork branches that runs southeast from Danville into Indiana, where it merges with the Wabash River.

With the grant funding, the plan would be to clear non-native trees and other vegetation from the top of the river’s northern slopes in a section from Walnut Street on the southeast side of the David S. Palmer Arena to a point on the southwest side of the arena where a 10-foot-wide shared-use path would lead to an overlook, offering that bird’s-eye view.

The 70-foot-long hard-surface path would run along the ridge overlooking the river, connecting two existing sections of sidewalk from the South Street curve east of the arena to the sidewalk on East Main on the other side of the arena. The path would be at street level and meander behind the arena along the crest of the river’s northern bank, offering views of the valley below.

Along with the path, Lane said all of the improvements would be at street level. There would be benches along the path leading to the overlook point.

The city has spent tens of thousands of dollars since 2011 buying riverfront properties west of the arena and demolishing buildings to clear a large area for future development.

But one of the best views of the river currently is along a sidewalk on the South Street curve on the east side of the arena, overlooking the site where state contractors removed a lowhead dam on the river last summer. Aldermen voted in January 2014 to remove the dam for public-safety reasons.

A temporary land bridge built last year to support heavy equipment that was used to demolish the concrete dam will be removed some time this year.

The city also owns 40 acres in a floodplain on the north side of the river, and as a result of the dam’s removal, there’s now a wide, accessible road leading to the river’s northern bank and a clearing that slopes to its edge.

Lane said that side of the river also offers a lot of recreational opportunities.

Categories (2):News, Parks and Recreation

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