Today I got out of bed at 5am to paddle flatwater.
I know what you’re thinking, but you read that right the first time.
Today I had the pleasure of paddling with the Mayors from Aurora, Montgomery, Oswego and Yorkville, IL along with other kayakers from the Illinois Paddling Council and the friends of the Fox River. Today’s mission? Aside from enjoying the weather and the scenery on the fox river, promote the recreation opportunities that are available today, and create a vision of what those opportunities could be tomorrow, namely, whitewater parks in Montgomery and Aurora.
Presently, paddling from Aurora to Yorkville just doesn’t make much sense for anyone. Even though it’s cool, it requires getting around 1 or 2 dams, and that’s a major pain in the butt. The mayors along this stretch of river want to change that. They also want to make this a paddling destination for those beyond the folks who have this in their backyard.
Today started out in downtown Aurora with speeches from each of the Mayors and an explanation of their vision for the fox.
In addition to the Mayors and the other paddlers, CBS and the local news came out in full force. I’ve been told tuesday is the most likely time to see the story show up. (I should note that Hannah, M. the CWA treasurer was interviewed by the CBS guy, so you should look out for her input on that news story)
After all the pleasantries behind the podium, we got on the water right there on the fox, just below the Aurora Dam.
After a few miles through aurora we took a shuttle to get us just blow the montgomery dam. Below is an artist’s rendering of a whitewater park there. Even though not much has been done on this project in the last few years, Montgomery did complete a full preliminary study with REP (the same guys who did Salida and BV).
Further downstream we arrived in Oswego, had a delicious lunch at the Taphouse Grill (I regret not ordering the pork tacos). If you’ve never been to this place, you’d never guess they have a tap list of over 40 beers. My choice today: Dragon’s Milk. Mmmmm
Once we were back on the river their mayor Brian LeClercq went to work pointing out all of the noteworthy spots along the fox in his town. He’s clearly a guy who puts his kayak to good use. Shortly downstream we spotted an eagle and her nest.
After a further paddle we took out at Saweekee and shuttled down to the Marge Cline Whitewater park in Yorkville for the final words and goodbye (and maybe a quick run down the rapids).
So where do things go from here? In addition to having the crew along for the news, a lot of the footage taken today will be used as promotional material for the region. Part of that material will be used when applying for grants (both government and philanthropic) in order to secure funding for any modifications to the dams. Montgomery was estimated to cost about $1.2 million to modify, and about 30% of that cost need to be raised to get the construction process tarted (including the permits, which can take forever for work like this). So for now, grants are being applied for, and we basically have to hope the money comes in, with out that -no go. That being said, the amount of effort going into this is huge. Montgomery and Oswego have 2 new young mayors who are very motivated to make this happen, and Aurora’s Mayor (though not as young) has a reputation for getting things done. And in case you weren’t aware, Aurora is the 2nd largest city in the state… so having their mayor on our side certainly can’t hurt when it comes to getting the state agencies on board.
As for today, It was a great day. My hat is off to Charlie Zine and the committee that helped put all of this together. Hopefully a ball has started rolling that can’t be stopped and chicago area boaters have their wish granted very soon: a new whitewater park in IL!