Developer Kim Blickenstaff bringing back Al Fresco Park, with a twist

Local News

PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. — Developer Kim Blickenstaff announced Wednesday he plans on reviving Peoria Heights’ riverfront.

Two spring-fed lakes will be constructed on the property that, back in the day, was the Al Fresco Amusement Park, which featured a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, Japanese garden and movie house starting in 1906. The property would provide fishing, boating, scuba diving, snorkeling, zip-lining, and other recreational opportunities, with a particular emphasis on introducing inner-city children to the outdoors.

The property, along Galena Road, would be elevated to put it above a 100-year flood stage, tiered and distinguished by waterfalls and other features of interest.

Beyond that, Blickenstaff said he wants to create a special wildlife habitat for river otters, trout, muskie, walleye and more. Community members can learn about these creatures’ natural environments.

He said he hopes to turn it into one long, recreational, educational, environmentally progressive and safe link along the Illinois Route 29/Galena Road corridor between the McClugage Bridge and the village-owned Poplar Park – and possibly beyond. A river loop bikeway, kayak and canoe launch area, an ice-skating rink, a water park, a sculpture trail and a museum highlighting Al Fresco Park artifacts could also be in the works.

“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.

Just south of the Illinois Valley Yacht Club, much of the land upon which the park once rested is underwater. The narrow strip that remains is where Blickenstaff wants to create a new Al Fresco.

Blickenstaff was born in central Illinois and is based in California.

“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.”

He said he is especially intrigued by the opportunities it will provide to Peoria’s kids.

“One of the things we talked about is inner-city kids having access to more nature than they do now,” he said.

There are also plans for a bridge over the highway linking Al Fresco with private, potentially developable property and parking on the west side of the road, the developer said.

The Peoria Heights Village Board on Tuesday reached a consensus to move forward on a long-term lease arrangement with Blickenstaff on the village-owned property.

Blickenstaff has previously invested in several projects in Peoria Heights, as well as the Scottish Rite Cathedral, which he hopes to turn into another entertainment destination.

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