ROSEMONT IL – Three waterfalls gurgle and churn like musical cauldrons in the village of Rosemont IL, less than a mile east of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. They straddle the corner of two very busy highways, North River and West Higgins roads, and serve as a man-made entrance for walkers along the Des Plaines River, one of the jewels of the Cook County Forest Preserve.
Therein lies a tale of interesting parallels with Pottstown PA.
Unlike the borough, Rosemont is a newcomer to municipal life. The Illinois village was founded only 55 years ago, in 1956. Compared to most spots on a Pennsylvania map – Pottstown, for example, was incorporated in 1815 – that makes Rosemont a babe in diapers. To match the village’s age, however, the folks in this part of Chicagoland apparently have some decidedly young thinking too.
Rosemont is booming. New construction can be found on many vacant lots. Gleaming glass and steel office towers are everywhere. New hotels are cropping up like daffodils on a spring day. Less than a half-mile from the corner, a new casino is being built … with the promise of even more development to come.
Yet there are these eye-catching waterfalls, built during 1992 and unexpectedly at the center of it all, as if some child assumed it was as good a place as any to put a cluster of bubbling, multi-tiered cascades.
Motorists who see them for a first time as they approach the traffic light at the corner are mesmerized by their action. Walkways installed at the front, where people can stop to admire the falls from below, extend around to the rear. Those who mosey on back, to their surprise, find both the river 20 feet below and benches on which to sit and watch it pass by.
Take a look at the accompanying photos of the falls, the landscaping, the walkways, and the river hidden behind it. Now close your eyes, and imagine a sign out front. “Welcome to Pottstown and the Schuylkill River Trail,” it says.
Not so far-fetched, really, considering that
- Like the Des Plaines coursing past Rosemont, the Schuylkill is Pottstown’s aquatic jewel. In fact, it’s much wider and offers a greater range of recreational opportunities;
- The forest preserve surrounding the Des Plaines connects its adjacent Cook County communities using a series of greenway hiking and biking trails. The longest, the 31-mile Des Plaines River Trail, links to another series of trails in nearby Lake County. Yes, that’s similar to the longer-still county-to-county trail system encompassed by the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, of which Pottstown is an important part.
- Rosemont has leveraged the arts and culture as drawing cards, making it one of the premier live entertainment venues outside Chicago’s city limits. Pottstown is attempting to do the same, thanks to the TriCounty Performing Arts Center, The Gallery On High and The Gallery School, summer First Saturdays, Sunday Music In The Park, and other organizations and events.
What Rosemont has accomplished with its waterfalls that Pottstown has not – or, at least, not yet – is create a tangible, visible entrance from its riverbanks to its businesses.
Pottstown has been repeatedly advised by experts at the Urban Land Institute to make its Schuylkill riverfront a place of wonder and magic. Coincidentally, the heritage area and the William Penn Foundation are jointly paying for the borough to create a Heritage Action Plan that defines a vision for Pottstown, gives it a progressive image, and works with its existing assets and resources to drive new economic interests.
Pottstown native Sue Repko, author of the Positively Pottstown blog, has written extensively on these topics. “What do we want to create? What do we want our community to look like?,” she asked in a post last week.
Maybe like Rosemont IL? Or maybe not. Read Repko’s article, titled “A Vision for Pottstown: What do YOU see?” and published April 6 (2011), here. Then use the blog’s comments section, and answer her questions.
Editor’s Note: The Sanatoga, Limerick, and Pottstown editions of The Posts are being published remotely this week from Chicago, where Managing Editor Joe Zlomek is on assignment.