Remembering Phil elfstrom
Jul 05, 2017 08:30AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines
In a newspaper story produced near the end of his elected time in office, former Kane County Board and Kane County Forest Preserve President Phil Elfstrom described himself with the following quote: “I sent that I have been blessed with an ability to see things that others have not yet been able to see…and thus I’ve been able to get some new ideas plugged into the world that surrounds us.”
Mr. Elfstrom was not exaggerating. He was visionary in many respects, including projects that we take for granted today, such as constructing a traffic bridge over the Fox River at the border of Geneva and Batavia. They named that road Fabyan Parkway, and without it traffic would be even more complicated than it is today.
Phil also recycled a host of unused railroad tracks along the Fox River, turning them into a nationally recognized system of bike trails that serve as connections between communities along the Fox River. He saw that as a good thing, and it has turned out that way for sure.
Phil Elfstrom also transformed a plot of ground platted as future landfill space into a minor league baseball park which quickly became one of the most talked about sports attractions in the Midwest. Thousands of families have visited that park since it was first built in 1990. This was Elfstrom’s legacy, recycling parts of our history into new paths for people to work and play.
His service to others spanned far beyond his time as a member of the Kane County Board. As a citizen of Batavia in the late 1960s, he worked actively to encourage downtown improvements including the purchase of the former Dunbar Kapple plant site. That led to the redevelopment of what is today the city government center and police station. The site surrounding it was turned into Riverrain Retirement Center as well as Batavia Riverwalk and the Peg Bond Center.
Phil was a big driver behind the Depot Historical Museum as well. In the late 1960s he helped gather a group of downtown Batavia business people to donate $50 each to fund the purchase of the old depot from the railroad and halt its removal to another park site on the west side of Aurora.
Phil was also a citizen who felt very deeply about supporting projects for which he had a passion with his own money. He invested strongly in the rebirth of Batavia’s downtown River St. corridor. He purchased and rehabbed several older historical homes for reuse, contributed to buy others that could be removed to allow the public more access to the river banks, and also aided in the purchase of works of art that now grace the streets of our town for the enjoyment of thousands of visitors each year.
But perhaps it is that concrete frog along the Depot pond that captures the spirit of Phil Elfstrom. He was touring a concrete plant and saw that thing sitting there and made an offer. He had it brought back to Batavia where hundreds of families pose with it each year. It’s kind of symbolic that it’s a gift from Phil Elfstrom that stands as a big frog by a small pond.