Geneva River Park Redux

Geneva River Park Redux

I last wrote about the Geneva River Park in February and several of you asked about its history. Its story appears below and I hope you will take the time to visit it.

River Park of Geneva

River Park of Geneva grew out of Mary Zaander’s letter to a local newspaper to reconsider condominium development plans along the Fox River. She and other volunteers gathered over 1000 signatures, convincing the City of Geneva to purchase the land back from the developer to whom they had previously sold it (for a much lower price)The City was able to purchase the land with TIF funds and then they  turned it back to the advocates and asked them to build a park.

Mary continues the story.  “We formed a NFP group.  We worked with the people of Geneva to envision, raise funds, plan, hire experts, lay pavers, plant prairies, raise more funds, weed, plant trees and, of course, burn our native ecosystem park.  Our landscape architect was Susan Conant, our trellis architect was Michael Mackie, our stonemason was Steve Patzer, our railing artist was Jim Jenkins, and our paver artists were many families of our community.  We worked every Saturday in the construction season for a few years.  Local restaurants provided lunch.  We got funding from the state of Illinois (DCCA), Kane County, Kane County Forest Preserve, City of Geneva, Geneva Park District and donations large and small from the people of Geneva.  Every week we hosted a volunteer group – boy scouts, girl scouts, business groups, the local bike club, neighbors, families, the football team, the key club and many others.  We saw ourselves as building community while building a park.


Trellises in early June



Late June  Terraced Hillside



Decorative Railing in early June

Our landscape architect guided us in creating a grand place in a small space.  We wanted to make a place that was exciting to visit and that educated our visitor about the geologic, natural and human history of the site.  Our history wall depicts the time from the Silurian sea through the ice age into habitation by the first people.  Artifacts from the early settlers are followed in time by evidence of the factory history of theplace.




Artifacts in the Wall



Stewardship Alcove with Prairie Smoke in early June

The last stop along our history wall is our stewardship alcove where our favorite plants grow – Prairie Petunia, Purple Love Grass and Prairie Smoke – and we ask visitors to consider their relationship with nature.

In addition to the concerts every summer, the amphitheater is also a hot place for weddings.  People use our paths for strolling, dog walking, and biking.  Many bird species use the park for feeding and a few nest.  We’ve observed turtles laying eggs and watched herons hunt frogs.  Occasionally a fox family will stay a while at the park.  A Wood Duck family is a common sight on the river in the spring.  Migrating birds, especially seed eaters, forage on their journeys.



Amphitheater with Prairie Dropseed in September

Our neighbors in Batavia have created a similar space that is friendly to both humans and nature.  These “in town” havens are important because they give people a chance to connect with nature while living in compact areas.  Our turtle boulder reminds us of a Native American creation legend.  Just as the humble turtle swam down to the depths to bring up the mud from which earth was created–sometimes our way forward relies on the help of lowly things.

We are expanding our park to the north this year!”



Geneva River Park overlooks the Fox River

Mary is president and founder of  Witness Tree Native Landscapes, Inc., a company that restores public and private native ecosystems and brings people into relationship with these areas. To Mary and her staff, this is not so much a vocation as a way of life.

You can reach Witness Tree Native Landscapes at www/ or 630-262-1160.


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