Geneseo's walking bridge would conquer confounding creek

Claudia Loucks
For the Republic
The drawing is of the proposed pedestrian bridge and historical landing project to be constructed across the Geneseo Creek at the intersection of South State St. and Oakwood Ave.

Geneseo's city council is taking steps to turn a long-time vision into reality.

According to Brandon Maeglin, Geneseo city administrator, a pedestrian bridge and historical landing across the Geneseo City Creek has a been a project “on the council’s radar for many years, and we are excited to take the first steps now so that we can see this vision come to life.”

The council approved a resolution Sept. 15 to fund initial renderings of a potential pedestrian bridge and historical landing project across the Geneseo Creek at the intersections of South State Street and Oakwood Avenue.

Maeglin said the goal is to have the majority of the project funded through grants, and on Sept. 30 the city officials applied for a State of Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program Grant.

”We will learn if we are awarded a grant in May of 2023,” he said. “This grant has the potential to fund anywhere from 50 percent to 80 percent of the project expenses.”

Locally, the city has been awarded a $25,000 grant form the Miller Foundation and the Geneseo Foundation has approved a $125,000 grant contingent upon securing the ITEP grant.  

“This project hits on many different goals and opportunities for improvement that the council has for the Interstate Corridor District, making it a very exciting project for us to tackle,” Maeglin added.

The pillars of the project are: pedestrian safety, access to businesses, celebration of history and beautification of the Interstate Gateway to Geneseo.

Maeglin said early engineering estimates put the anticipated project expense from $300,000 to $450,000, and “if awarded the state grant, we can expect the project to begin in the summer of 2023.”

Currently, pedestrians and bicyclists are forced to walk across the vehicular bridge, which puts both the pedestrians and the vehicle passengers at risk, as evidenced by the five vehicular collisions that occurred in the last year in the vicinity of the bridge.

The current vehicular bridge is too narrow to accommodate a walking path, so a separate pedestrian bridge is required for the safety of Geneseo’s residents and visitors, the city administrator said.

On the east side of the Geneseo Creek, the pedestrian bridge will empty into a historical landing where the marker for Geneseo’s first log cabin will be re-located to a much more accurate location than its current resting place, which is north on State St.

The pedestrian bridge also will have a “Welcome to Geneseo” sign and highlight the community as modern and hospitable, Maeglin said.

"In addition to the safety and cultural preservation benefits of the project, there is also an economic benefit for local businesses," he said. "Five separate businesses on Oakwood Ave/Route 82 reported an anticipated revenue increase of $5,000 to $10,000 per store once the project is complete, primarily from new foot and bicycle traffic.”

Log cabin marker

Mary Gustafson, Honorary Illinois State Regent of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Geneseo Chapter, said the organization would very much like the boulder and plaque to be moved to the original site of the first log cabin.

Gustafson said the Geneseo Chapter (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) was organized in 1899.

“In keeping with the mission to promote historic preservation, the Geneseo Chapter members placed a marker near the Geneseo Creek at the junction of State Street and Oakwood Avenue, marking the site of Geneseo’s First Log Cabin,” Gustafson explained. “This boulder and marker had to be moved in the early 1970’s because of the reconfiguration of the intersection of South State St. and Oakwood Ave. It was moved to the end of the South State St. boulevard.”

The boulder is black jasper which came form the land formerly owned by Hiram J. Cady, whose wife was Mary Bartlett, daughter of Cromwell K. Bartlett, who was one of the early Geneseo settlers, Gustafson said.

The Geneseo Chapter replaced the original, deteriorating plaque with a new bronze plaque in June of 2000.

“It was the hope of the chapter that the day would come when the boulder and plaque could be relocated to the original site of the first log cabin near the Geneseo Creek," Gustafson said. "It is important that the marking of historic sites be as accurate as possible and the relocation of the boulder and plaque will make this possible.”

She the Geneseo chapter will pay for a new plaque when it is relocated in the proposed Historical Landing.