Bulldozers and backhoes began moving earth in Swan Pond Park on Sept. 12, beginning the final phase of the Hofmann Dam removal project. Work should be complete by the end of October, said Jeff Zuercher, project manager from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the work.

When the work is done, the contours of the park will be pitched toward a drainage culvert in the northern end of Swan Pond, which will empty into the Des Plaines River via a concrete pipe that will be buried underground.

The only section of pipe that will be visible, said Zuercher, is a three- to four-foot section where the pipe empties into the river. A rubberized flapper valve will allow water to flow out of the pipe, but prevent water from entering the park through it, he said.

In addition to the regrading of the park, there will be a new structure visible in the park – the headwall of the culvert, which will measure three to four feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide.

The headwall will be concrete, but will have a “cobbled” look more in line with the WPA-era wall in the park, said Zuercher. While the headwall will be fairly visible inside the park, from the walking path near the riverbank, it will be less visible, according to Zuercher, who added that native plantings in the area of the culvert should serve to screen the structure somewhat.

“From the path you’ll see a six- to eight-inch [tall] concrete wall,” said Zuercher. “From the park you’ll see a bigger profile, but native plants will be planted in front of [the head wall] where the water will pond most.”

Work to install the culvert will take place early next week and the trench where the pipe is going will be back-filled afterward. Stripping the top soil and regrading work is scheduled to continue through the week of Sept. 25, said Zuercher.

Also that week, crews will also being to lay stone foundation for the new walking path, which will wind along the riverbank from Burling Road all the way to the Barrypoint Road bridge.

One significant change in the plan of the path, however, is that it will be made of asphalt.

Earlier this year, the plan called for a more rustic-looking chip-and-seal surface. However, said Zuercher that plan fell by the wayside when they couldn’t find a contractor to do the work for the budgeted cost.

“They would only do it for a road width, not a path width, and that would have been very expensive and we’d have had to take extra trees,” said Zuercher.

Instead, the Army Corps convinced the village to agree to an asphalt path. The path will be six feet wide as it heads from the bottom of the hill to the area near the curving WPA wall in the park. There, it will become a wider plaza area and then narrow again to about four feet wide as it heads south toward the bridge.

Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera said that the asphalt will have a more weathered look and won’t be as jarring as a new asphalt roadway, for example.

Apart from how the path will look, asphalt takes some upkeep in terms of crack sealing and seal coating. That maintenance will fall to the village of Riverside.

“We hope that the maintenance won’t be for a while, and we hope it will be minimal,” Scalera said. “It’ll be primarily pedestrians and cyclists, so the wear and tear shouldn’t be as great.”

Most of the work in the park ought to be done by the end of the second week in October, according to Zuercher. It’s unclear when the park will be fully open to residents, since it will take some time for new ground cover in the park to become established.

In addition, 32 new trees will be planted in the park. Their location will be determined by the village’s forester, working with the Army Corps.

The changes in the park will be noticeable, especially near the path along the riverbank, said Scalera.

“I think everyone is excited to see the end product,” said Scalera. “It will be a great view for people using that path. It will have a completely different feel.”

Work winding down near dam site

As work cranks up in Swan Pond Park, efforts along the riverbank above the site of the former Hofmann Dam are winding down. Stone has been rearranged on the banks near the dam to create a more defined river channel.

The access road on the south bank of the river is coming out this week and work should soon begin to place more boulders on the north river bank up stream of the dam area.

While Jeff Zuercher, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ project manager, said he hopes anyone wishing to paddle a boat through area would wait until work has ended, the river is basically open for navigation, though there are areas near the old dam site where the water is pretty shallow and may be harder to navigate.