On the 8100 block of Edgewater Road, a small block nestled in North Riverside’s southeastern-most part of town, nothing has annoyed lifelong resident Joseph Maruska more than the fact that both ends of his block are missing the quintessential piece of suburban life — sidewalks. 

For more than 40 years, Maruska has witnessed generations of residents trudging through ice and snow in the winter, or walking in the middle of the street just to walk between Edgewater Road and 30th Street along Lincoln Avenue and Groveland Avenue because of the lack of pavement along parts of those streets. 

Time and time again, Maruska says, he has tried speaking with people from the village about installing about 100 feet of sidewalk on both Lincoln Avenue and Groveland Avenue.

But to no avail. 

“I think it’s absolutely terrible, because every time I see kids with parents having to go in the street, it just reinstates the fact that I can’t win a simple little battle of putting 100 feet of sidewalk in on both sides,” he said. “It’s just really frustrating.”

So, Maruska rounded up a group of neighbors to organize a mini-protest on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, the day Santa and village officials made their annual pre-Christmas rounds aboard a fire truck through the village, including Edgewater Road.

Holding up signs reading “All we want for Christmas are sidewalks” and “40 years without sidewalks,” Maruska was joined by a few other residents on the southwest corner of 30th Street and Lincoln Avenue as Santa, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. and village trustees disembarked to greet residents and pass candy out to children. 

Though a newer resident to the neighborhood, Jason Hinsley joined in the protest because he says there is no reason why residents should have to even go to a village board meeting in the first place to ask for “a basic need that the government is supposed to provide in any small town.”

“Every neighborhood has sidewalks in North Riverside, except for this one,” Hinsley said.

Hinsley, and a few other residents who asked to remain anonymous, added that work schedules and family obligations make it difficult to attend regular board meetings, and all they want to see are equal amenities for their block just as other blocks do throughout North Riverside. 

“It’s a surprise that it’s something there’s an issue with,” Hinsley added.

To the residents’ pleasure, Hermanek and several trustees walked over to the group, speaking with them for nearly 10 minutes about their concerns. Listening to their frustrations, Hermanek told the group that next spring, he would make addressing the issue among his top priorities.

According to Hermanek, he has already directed village engineers to study the area and determine the best solutions, locate utility easements are and how they line up with homeowners’ property lines. 

“When we know how to proceed, we will then budget for the improvements on the south side of the village,” Hermanek said. “There should be no reason why this project cannot be completed by springtime. We will work with the residents to achieve a mutually acceptable solution.”

Seeing some traction on the issue, Maruska said it’s looking like hopefully, his longtime Christmas wish will finally come true. 

“This is our primary issue — the safety of our children, first and foremost,” he said.