Without a doubt, Swan Pond Park is the gem in Riverside’s greenspace necklace that rings its southern border along the Des Plaines River. But it needs a good polishing.
More than a year after ice flows gouged the earth, flattened trees and deposited all manner of debris, there’s still no plan for getting Swan Pond Park back into a condition the village can be proud of.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pitched the regrading plan for the park back in 2011, it looked like a great deal and a way to address what was a real drainage problem in the park.
But, whether because the regrading was botched or because the park was so severely damaged by the flooding during the winter of 2014, Swan Pond Park is an unusable mess.
While the debris that made the park look like a garbage dump for a few months last year has been removed, the damage to the landscape itself remains. And it’s not going to change unless Riverside commits itself to getting the job done.
Part of that discussion has to be whether or not to keep the changes made to the park by the Army Corps — such as the concrete drainage culvert and mat of native grasses (now located in the wrong place) — or to scrap them and start anew.
Because whatever the Army Corps did down there is not working at all. In addition to now looking terrible, the park still doesn’t drain properly, which was the whole point of the regrading in the first place.
Of course, the trouble is that fixing the mess in Swan Pond correctly is likely to be expensive. The village could opt to do a minor earth-moving project in order to make the park look at least presentable, but we’re not sure how long a fix like that will last.
Any part of a discussion about making another major fix to the park has to be Swan Pond Park’s role as a flood plain. The park is and always will serve in that role. Does the village want to spend a lot of money only to see another flood like 2014’s replicate the damage wrought at that time?
There don’t appear to be many easy answers here. But one thing is crystal clear: Swan Pond Park can’t remain the way it is right now. If the old park didn’t drain right, at least it was usable for long stretches of the year and it wasn’t an eyesore.
Riverside’s village board needs to make Swan Pond Park a priority, if not in 2015, then next year. It needs to be placed into the village’s capital improvement plan and money needs to be earmarked for that use.
With a new governor limiting opportunities for open space grants through the state, it may not be feasible for the village to count on such funding, though it ought to be explored.
Either way, Swan Pond Park needs serious attention, and soon.