Sept. 21 was a big day for Riverside. Nothing much out of the ordinary happened that day. But Riverside village board’s vote to grant a couple of easements to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers was more than a formality, allowing those two agencies to use Riverside land to complete a dam removal project.

It will result in a major and long overdue improvement to Swan Pond Park, a public works project the village could never have undertaken on its own – not just because of the expense but because of the internal battles that would have played out had the effort been a purely local one.

But first let’s talk about the river in the wake of the dam removal project. The river immediately above the dam will change quite a bit. It will narrow to a more natural-looking channel, and, in time, the water quality will improve to provide for more species of fish. The removal of the dam will eliminate a hazard that has taken lives and will allow canoeists to navigate the waters along Riverside’s borders without fear.

There has been some fear that the narrowing of the channel will expose mud flats that will be a blight on Riverside. This is unfounded. While it is true that only a few dams have been removed in Illinois, the Army Corps has done so in many other places. Riverbank restoration will be successful. There is absolutely no reason to believe it will not be.

Much of the fear of this project has been driven by nostalgia and the loss of something familiar. The dam is not what made Riverside and losing it will not doom the village’s historic landscape design.

In fact because of the dam removal, Riverside’s landscape – and the gem that is Swan Pond Park in particular – will be reclaimed from the damage that’s been done to it by its non-functioning drainage system.

And because Riverside officials, individual citizens and citizen groups have negotiated in good faith with state and federal agencies, the work to be done in Swan Pond Park will enhance it, making it more beautiful and more useful to its citizens.

This is an example of Riverside government doing things right. This was an issue the village board knew it couldn’t fumble and it didn’t. While the lion’s share of the negotiating was done by two trustees – Lonnie Sacchi and James Reynolds – they had the support of the entire board, and the board moved forward on this without losing focus on the main goal: not just to make sure no harm was done to Riverside, but to make sure the result improved Riverside.

The job’s not over. In fact, it may be just beginning. More negotiations will likely be needed and Riverside needs to push its own agenda. But we expect the board to work in the best interests of the village as construction moves ahead, just as it has so far.