Repairs slated for Swan Pond wall, steps

WPA project in disrepair, considered safety hazard

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By BOB UPHUES

Periodic flooding and northern Illinois' harsh winters have taken their toll on just about every corner of Riverside's Swan Pond Park. Several years ago, the steps down to the park from Barrypoint Road were repaired, and in the next month, a WPA-built retaining wall and steps along the river path will undergo a much-needed renovation.

Today the village's Recreation Department will unseal bids for work to repair (and in some areas rebuild) the curving concrete and stone retaining wall, and completely rebuild a short set of steps that has deteriorated over the years. The village has budgeted $35,000 for the project, although bids may come in lower or higher than that estimate.

Recreation Director Laure Kosey said that she hopes to get village trustee approval for the work at the board's Aug. 15 meeting with the hope work can get started that week and finish by mid-September.

The retaining wall and stairs have been on the Recreation Department's agenda for several years, but work has been put off since repairs were originally included in an Army Corps of Engineers proposal that would have also removed Hofmann Dam just upstream from Swan Pond. That project, however, has been pulled off the table for the foreseeable future, and the condition of the wall and steps make them safety hazards. The crumbling stairway has been fenced off from foot traffic.

According to Riverside Public Works Director Michael Hullihan, the masonry wall and steps were part of a WPA project and constructed some time between 1935-40. The wall itself was a conglomeration of various bits of construction materials, Hullihan said, from chunks of stone to construction debris.

"Originally there was some limestone, busted up pieces of concrete?"anything they had at hand," Hullihan said. "There are areas missing stones that have just been filled in with concrete and the steps were formed out of concrete. It's typical of WPA projects, where they were trying to use all the labor they could. They had more labor than materials apparently. It looks like rubble building."

Rebuilding the wall and steps will have little, if any, impact on preventing the kind of flooding in Swan Pond Park that occurred in the spring of 2004. The park at one time was outfitted with a drainage system, another WPA effort, but time has rendered that system useless, according to Hullihan.

"The drain tile system was put in about the same time as the retaining wall, and there have been plans to re-establish that system with modern materials," Hullihan said.

But since flooding is relatively infrequent, Hullihan also had a topographical survey of the park completed, which revealed various low spots in the park. Before spending the money to repair the drain tiles, Hullihan said in the case of future flooding, his crews will attempt to pump water out of the park once the river recedes. Using the same pumps employed during water main breaks, Hullihan felt his crews could pump water out of the park within days.

"Before we do a structural solution, we'll explore a non-structural solution," said Hullihan, a hydraulic engineer.

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