Just three years after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reshaped Riverside’s Swan Pond Park — removing trees, regrading the earth, installing a drainage structure and constructing an asphalt walking path — the Riverside Village Board is contemplating a do-over.
A spring flood in 2013 and then two devastating winter floods in 2014 damaged the park, with ice flows scouring the landscape, eroding the river bank, flattening trees, damaging the walking path and displacing a whole section of native plantings.
But, truth be told, there were issues with the Army Corps-renovated park almost from the start.
Questions still remain as to whether the drainage structure ever operated properly, and low spots still prevent the park from draining adequately. The walking path, in addition to being susceptible to damage from flooding, was narrowed in large stretches to just 4 feet, which doesn’t allow for two people to walk side by side.
“In my opinion, it’s worse after the Army Corps’ work than what it was before,” said Village President Ben Sells in a phone interview Sept. 18. “So we want to fix it.”
On Sept. 17, Village Engineer Orion Galey presented the Riverside Village Board with several solutions for remediating the damage done to Swan Pond Park. And between replacing the walking path and making fixes to the park’s drainage system, trustees are looking at a price tag ranging from $55,000 to $400,000.
Because the asphalt path is so susceptible to flood damage, Galey suggest three options, all of which would involve digging out the asphalt path and replacing it. The cheapest solution would be to use crushed limestone, which would provide a more natural look and avoid expensive annual maintenance.
Including the removal of the existing path, installing a limestone path would cost between $40,000 and $50,000, though that cost could rise proportionally if the village chose to widen the path to 7 or 8 feet.
Other options, said Galey, included installing an exposed aggregate sidewalk path ($140,000 to $160,000), which would hold up better than asphalt and require little, if any, annual maintenance or a path made of natural stone paver blocks ($200,000 to $225,000), which would also be a low-maintenance solution.
However, Sells said no one on the board that he’s talked to favors either of the high-cost path solutions. Sells said he’s not convinced the path needs to be addressed right away.
“I’m not willing to spend money to rip the existing path out,” Sells said. “If it gets to a point where it’s in disrepair, then I’d go for the limestone route. I don’t think anyone is interested in exposed aggregate concrete or pavers down there.”
Sells, however, said the grading of the park itself needs to be addressed. Galey offered three options for the park, including a “minimal” solution that would involve regrading Swan Pond Park to eliminate low spots and add more wetlands plantings.
That solution, which Galey estimated costing $15,000 to $20,000, would recognize the park as a flood plain and wetlands with little opportunity for recreation.
A second option, which would cost between $30,000 and $40,000, would involve regrading by “flattening the slope throughout the park,” creating a larger drainage channel next to the drainage structure and adding more wetlands plantings.
A final option, estimated between $150,000 and $175,000, would be to regrade the park and install a small pump station instead of using the drainage pipe. Using a pump would shorten the amount of time the park would be inundated with water after flooding and allow for more recreational use.
Sells said, given the nature of the park as a flood plain, trustees will have to weigh how much they want to spend on such improvements. In the past, the Riverside Parks and Recreation Department used the park for soccer.
But Recreation Director Ron Malchiodi said in a phone interview that the department has no plans for the park as a recreation site.
“We did use it in the past, but it was never reliable and really not suited to our needs,” Malchiodi said. “We’re not planning on holding activities down there or devoting capital dollars for rehab.”
Sells, in the Sept. 18 phone interview with the Landmark, also wondered whether there might be some way to soften the look of the concrete drainage culvert built in 2012 by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“I’d like to see if there was some way you could significantly reduce the footprint [of the culvert] and still have the pipe there,” Sells said. “We’re not done talking to the engineers about this.”
Whatever trustees decide to do, no work is expected to take place in Swan Pond Park this year. The work also is not listed as a line item in Riverside’s 2016 capital improvement budget, though a $100,000 line item for the work appears in the “unfunded” section of the village’s 10-year capital improvement plan.