With the addition of a canoe launch at Pioneer Park, visitors to Naperville's Riverwalk now can enjoy the civic amenity from the water.
If the river's high enough, that is.
"We knew we wanted (a canoe launch) closer to downtown," said Eric Shutes, park district director of planning. "Obviously, the ability to get around comes down to the water level and this was a spot on the river where canoeing is almost always accessible."
Park officials christened the launch and an adjoining trail plaza Thursday during a ceremony that honored the family that helped finance the $340,000 project.
Chuck and Betty Biegel donated some of the cash for the project in the park along Washington Street, just north of 75th Street.
Chuck Biegel said he always imagined a canoe launch at the site, even when he was younger and constructing makeshift rafts out of discarded wood and empty paint canisters.
"We couldn't afford a canoe back then," he said. "But I tell you, I just took a ride in one from here and it sure was worth the wait."
Besides the canoe launch, the park now has a picnic area with covered seating, restrooms and vending machines. Officials said most users will be runners and bicyclists using the nearby river trail.
"We have created a spot that will be enjoyed by many Naperville families," park board President Kristen Jungles said. "It is the inspiration of the Biegel family that brought us to this point."
The facility fills a major gap in the launch locations along the DuPage River in Naperville. Launches already exist on the far north side of the city in the McDowell Grove Forest Preserve and also on the far south at Knoch Knolls Park.
Shutes said the state has made it easier for park districts to create boat and watercraft launches by helping fund such initiatives through grants. The district received $100,000 for this project.
Mayor George Pradel said he'd taken a canoe trip on the river a couple years ago and couldn't wait to go again with the new launch in place.
"If you take a trip along the river here, you can't believe the sights you see," he said.