Leaders: South Beloit nature preserve key to economic development

Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 7:23 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - South Beloit leaders are looking to a nature preserve in its downtown area to create more ways to connect the city to downtown Beloit, Wisconsin.

”We all collaborate, and see ourselves as one big community, so we want folks visiting Beloit to see that South Beloit is simply an extension of that,” said Julie Uram, executive director of Nature At The Confluence.

Uram said adding amenities to the 80-acre nature preserve is a perfect way to do that. That is why the facility will soon include a park on its south end and an expanded border to the north.

“The connecting little paths and trails to help people easily get from Wisconsin to Illinois,” Uram said.

The project is part of a three-phase plan to spur economic development on both sides of the Rock River.

”The city has a vision for a downtown feel,” said South Beloit City Administrator Sonya Hoppes. “We want to kind of fit in where it works and build on what the downtown Beloit area has done over the years.”

And for South Beloit, that means improving the area near Blackhawk Boulevard and Gardner Street.

“[It’s] a primary access point to get downtown, to get to the Sky Carp, ABC Supply Stadium,” Hoppes said.

Hoppes said adding a park, transit hub, and multi-use trails that cross Turtle Creek into Beloit will do just that.

“This stretch of Gardner is really our hope to spur a cleanup and redevelopment effort,” she said.

Adjacent businesses say the project can’t be finished soon enough.

“People being able to come and make new memories with their families and children being able to play in the park,” said Alicia Peterson, owner of Dari Ripple, a longtime South Beloit business next to the space where the park is planned.

The $2 million project is currently in Phase 1, which includes cleanup and remediation. A parking lot and trails will be added in the second phase. Hoppes said the plan will likely be completed in three to five years.

Hoppes added that expanding Nature At The Confluence will also help the city develop land it owns on Shirland Avenue, directly across from ABC Supply Stadium.