To: The Geneva City Council,
Soon, maybe not tomorrow, the Geneva dam on the Fox River will be removed. The long-term health of the river and human safety concerns demand removal. The water skiers will be gone but the kayaks and canoes will abound. If the money can be found, the removal might be done in an orderly planned way. Or the fickle river itself may remove the dam just as the river removed Geneva’s wooden bridge in 1857, and dams before that.
In the above file, you will see two map images that both show the river now and in 1872 but with different transparencies of the overlay. Both maps were created after the Galena & Chicago Railroad assault of 1854 that cut the river in half. Through the link in the file, you can see what 150 years have wrought. If you are really interested, the 1841 surveyors’ map shows that the east channel was wider than the west and the island was a much longer narrower snake that extended only a bit further north but a lot south of its current state. The City of Geneva water treatment plant is on the tail of that snake. Geneva is dotted with old dump sites from Wheeler Park in the north to the man-made bayou south of the tracks that had been the east channel. Mercury-rich coal fly ash is a major component of landfills all over the old town. Then we created a police practice range so that lead can contribute to human misery and wildlife extinction.
You are about to “de-landmark” The Mill Race Inn site, one of the last remaining open parcels of land on downtown Geneva’s riverbank. Your arbitrary historical “period of interest” of 1846-1946 is absurdly legalistic. Usually, rules mean nothing to you except on those occasions when you use them to justify your short-sighted poor decisions. Do not make this one of those occasions.
A public park is obviously the best choice for this 1.4-acre parcel on the river ford of an ancient buffalo trace. The Viking ship and Bristol Farmhouse are obvious candidates to join the industrial shop of Alexander and Rystrom to commemorate one fleeting century of one species’ history. The new park should also celebrate Geneva’s natural history, which is centered on the Fox River.
But until the clammers can again find pearls in the river, our debt to the river will remain due but unpaid.