By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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LOVES PARK — A summer night’s rain can be a soothing sound to help you drift asleep. That is unless you’re Steve Kling.
The president of the Loves Park Ski Broncs has lost many nights sleep listening to to the rain and dreading the damage it’s doing to the Rock River shoreline where the water ski show team performs.
“I cannot tell you the years I’ve lost off my life sitting at night with my eyes wide open, hearing rain outside,” Kling said, “because I know what happens when it rains is it washes the shoreline away more.”
On Friday, as the temperature outside hovered around zero, Kling and a band of local dignitaries turned their thoughts to summer with an announcement that will shape the future of the ski show team.
Shorewood Park, where the team has performed for 55 years, will undergo a major overhaul to stabilize the shoreline, expand the show stage and replace the surface around the bleachers with more accessible pavement.
“It breathes new life into our free community ski shows,” Kling said.
Shorewood Park, 235 Evelyn Ave., is home to the Ski Broncs, a recently built disc golf course and a popular riverfront recreation path for walking, biking and jogging. But flooding has plagued the park, causing ongoing issues with erosion and leading to the cancellation of many events.
“The shoreline is literally falling into the Rock River,” said Jay Sandine, executive director of the Rockford Park District. “All the improvements up north, all the huge watershed, it’s devastated that shoreline and that park every time it floods and rains heavy.”
A state grant of $800,000 secured by state Rep. Dave Vella will cover the cost of renovations. He said the improvements will both secure the future of free family entertainment and, as Kling attested to, allow the Ski Broncs to pursue hosting bigger tournaments that could generate tourism spending here.
“This infusion of capital will make sure they can host more and bigger events, bringing much needed tourism dollars to the area and further cementing the Loves Park Ski Broncs as the premier water ski show team in Illinois,” Vella said.
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The work will also include a reconfiguration of the pathway through the boat staging area to create better traffic flow for ski show performers.
“It’s hard for people to know that haven’t skied toward a big chunk of concrete, but what we’re going to do will be much safer for our skiers,” Kling said.
Design work by Fehr Graham will happen through the summer with construction slated to start at the end of the Ski Broncs 2022 season. The improvements are expected to be in place by the start of the 2023 season.
“It’s a really big deal,” Kling said. “I didn’t know if it would happen in my lifetime, to tell you the truth.”
At a glance | Shorewood Park improvements
- Renovate seawall and stabilize the Rock River shoreline to minimize erosion
- Replace the existing stage with a new and expanded show stage
- New accessible pavement to replace surface around the bleacher area
- Expand boat staging area and reconfigure pathway for park users and show performers