Left Justified: Rockford in the year 2020

Well, the city is finally going to pass its 2020 Plan, and I like most of it.

Get this: the old Woodruff Expressway is now a proposed bike path! I love it! Mayor Ben Schleicher must not have seen this coming.

The plan calls for working in the inner city and supports tearing down older structures and building new ones as well as supporting rehab of neighborhoods and commercial areas. If we direct investment to the inner city, downtown might be reinvigorated, and some of the best farmland and wilderness areas in northern Illinois could be saved. The plan will help, but as it stands now, the city is still moving east.

Imagine another Perryville Road running north and south between East State and Route 173. But this six-lane mega-road is east of the interstate. There is just a hint that this is what the planners are planning. When you look at the proposed map, east of the interstate is all residential or commercial. No farmland. I guess it’s inevitable, and there is not much we can do about it. The State of Illinois does not help us preserve farms, fields, prairies and streams.

Trying to stop east-side development, one might as well lie down in front of a Rockford Blacktop bulldozer. At least the city is encouraging “smart growth” where mixed use, compact building design and creative walkable communities might be constructed. But where’s the stick to enforce those good ideas?

I beg the city planners to put a few parks in there somewhere. Looking at the map, there is no green space in the new development area. How sad. I guess no one who is planning on moving there will have kids. Just blacktop and lawns as far as the eye can see.

The city should turn Keith Creek into a Greenway, and protect all the tributaries that drain into the Kishwaukee River. Many of them will probably be turned into cement drains that funnel the water without any flood prevention. The city should demand developers preserve the wetlands and creeks as green space to alleviate the flooding down river.

The city must get tougher with developers, demand that they preserve some natural areas, make the place greener and more inviting, and lessen the impact on the environment. The developers’ fees could be used to redevelop the rest of the city as well as protecting one of the most important environmental and historical areas of the region. I am talking about the confluence of the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers.

Just south of the airport is a wonderful prairie and wildlife habitat. It’s where Native American tribes gathered and lived; remnants of Indian mounds can still be found. Most of this area is green in the Rockford Plan. Thank you very much, city planners. But there is some yellow, meaning residential areas, on the west side of the Rock River, across where the Kishwaukee flows in. Personally, I would love to have a house overlooking such an idyllic spot, but truly that area should be reserved for the public. Is there any way we can preserve that land?

Rockford’s 2020 Plan is a look ahead 16 years to what our city may be. If you want to put your two cents’ worth in, the city is hosting a public meeting, Monday, June 21, starting about 7 p.m. or after the City Council meeting, in their chambers, second floor of City Hall. I am sure all the developers as well as the real estate and business people have put in their two cents. I’ve encouraged the environmentalists to do the same. You might want to go down there just to see what your community will look like.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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