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Quinn’s grants to help big plans become reality

Big plans are in the works for riverfront property in Sterling and Rock Falls. The community stands to benefit greatly from a new scenic and recreational attraction.

Published: Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Daniel Burnham (1846-1912), the legendary Chicago architect and urban designer, was a fan of big projects.

“Make no little plans,” Burnham said. “They have no magic to stir men’s blood. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.”

Sterling and Rock Falls leaders are in the midst of making big plans, too – plans that they hope become a reality for their downtown riverfronts.

Those big plans were highlighted during Gov. Pat Quinn’s visit to Sterling Saturday.

Big plans cost big money, of course, and Quinn obliged on two fronts.

First, the governor announced that Sterling would receive a $1.3 million grant to help revitalize its riverfront and build green infrastructure.

That money comes from the Illinois Green Infrastructure Grants program championed by Quinn.

Then, the governor awarded Sterling another grant for $900,000. That money is to be used to transfer 60,000 cubic yards of dredged soil to cover the brownfield site, the former property of Northwestern Steel and Wire.

The funds come from a Mud to Parks Program, which pays to relocate dredged material, in this case from Fox Lake, to public places where it can be put to use.

So, what are these big plans for the Twin Cities riverfront?

On the Sterling side, start with 9 acres of natural landscape restoration. Add 4,500 square feet of grass. Include an 8-foot-tall green vertical vegetative wall that will be nearly three football fields long. Mix in a wetland/pond complex, some green roofs, three cisterns to capture rainwater for irrigation, 7,800 square feet of traditional rain gardens, and a porous pavement parking lot, and you’ve got a new recreational and scenic asset that also should lessen the amount of polluted rainwater entering the Rock River.

The Sterling project has a total price tag of nearly $2.2 million, so the grant money will pay for a substantial amount.

Across the river, Rock Falls has complementary plans for a riverfront trail running between the Hennepin Feeder Canal and the Avenue G bridge and Lawrence Park.

Together, those projects will help erase industrial eyesores and, with “magic to stir men’s blood,” make the Twin Cities riverfront a sight to behold and a fun place to be.

Congratulations to Sterling and Rock Falls city leaders for daring to make big plans.

We think Daniel Burnham would approve.

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