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Peoria Heights developer wants to bring a new look for Al Fresco Amusement Park

PEORIA HEIGHTS. (WEEK) – Developer Kim Blickenstaff says he wants to revamp the Peoria Heights riverfront by reaching into the past.

The Heights was once home to Al Fresco Amusement Park that brought thousands of people to the area for the roller coaster, Ferris Wheel, a Japanese Garden and classic movie house. The park opened in 1906 and saw the best years during the Roaring 20’s. Al Fresco closed toward the end of World War II.

Today, much of the land south of the Illinois Valley Yacht Club is under water. Blickenstaff hopes to create a new nature park on the narrow strip of land left.

Blickenstaff says there will be two spring-fed lakes on the property for fishing, boating, scuba diving among other recreational activities. He says special emphasis will be put on introducing inner city children to the wonders of the great outdoors. Blickenstaff says the property will be elevated above a 100-year flood stage, tiered and distinguished by waterfalls and other features.

He also hopes to bring wildlife into the park with space for river otters, fish and birds. Blickenstaff says the area can allow the animals to flourish and create a learning experience for those who may have never seen animals in a natural habitat.

“Fundamentally, why we’re doing it is that it was once the real attraction here in Peoria during the summertime,” said Blickenstaff. “It was known for its clear blue water … My mother recalled hot days going out there to go swimming. It just seems like a good addition to the Galena Road improvement.”

Looking ahead, Blickenstaff hopes to create one link along the Illinois Route 29/Galena Road corridor between the McClugage Bridge and Poplar Park. A river loop bikeway, kayak and canoe launch, ice skating arena, water park, sculpture trail and Al Fresco Park museum could be future developments.

“We’re trying to integrate lower Peoria Heights with upper Peoria Heights,” KDB Group Managing Director Greg Birkland told the Heights Village Board.

All costs will be covered by KDB, at no expense to the village.

This project was spearheaded by the $68.5 million grant through the state’s capital spending bill focused on widening and upgrading Galena Road between the McClugage Bridge and Gardner Lane. Blickenstaff says there are also plans for a bridge over the highway linking Al Fresco with private land that could be developed property and parking on the west side of the road.

The Peoria Heights Village Board already moved forward on a long-term lease arrangement with Blickenstaff on Tuesday night.



Jason Howell

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