More than two years after two separate winter flood events scoured the landscape of Riverside’s Swan Pond Park, officials are moving toward a permanent fix for the park.
On Aug. 9, the Riverside Landscape Advisory Commission selected Living Habitats, a Chicago-based landscape architecture and environmental planning firm, to devise a planting plan that follows principles of Riverside’s designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, to reverse the damage done to the landscape by the flood.
The planting plan will be much more than a list of approved plants for Swan Pond, particularly the lowest area near the drainage culvert that was installed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2012 as part of a project to improve drainage in Swan Pond Park.
The firm’s recommendations will include design guidelines, an estimate of cost for implementing the design and a maintenance plan to make sure the area isn’t inundated with invasive species of plants in the years that follow.
“That’s important to us, because we want to make sure it’s designed in an Olmstedian way,” said Cathy Maloney, chairwoman of the Landscape Advisory Commission.
The village has fast-tracked the Swan Pond restoration plan project, and Living Habitats will have a report for the village this fall. Maloney said the hope is for the plan to be implemented in the spring of 2017.
In 2012, the Army Corps also installed a roughly 10-by-30-yard mat of native plantings in front of the culvert. But the plantings had a tough time getting established.
First, a historic flood event in April 2013 turned Swan Pond into a lake that spring. Then in January and February of 2014, flooding drove enormous chunks of ice into the park, digging up the earth and physically moving the mat of plants away from the culvert.
As a result, the ground is quite uneven in the lowest part of the park near the culvert and it’s plagued by standing water whenever there’s rain of any note.
Living Habitats has completed shoreline and wetland restoration projects for such high-profile clients as the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Garden. The Landscape Advisory Commission selected the firm from a group of three that submitted proposals and their qualifications in response to a request for help from the commission in July.
The other firms considered for the work were Hitchcock Design Group, which has served as Brookfield’s primary open space design consultant for about the past decade, and V3, which is known more for its engineering expertise. Locally, they were involved in the East Avenue/47th Street traffic study conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
According to Maloney, Living Habitats came with “stellar references.” The commission was also impressed with firm founder Heidi Natura’s understanding of the Olmstedian principles they were seeking to employ.
Natura said in the firm’s proposal that she would lead the Swan Pond project.
Maloney said that Living Habitats won’t be tasked with addressing any specific overhaul of Swan Pond Park that would require a major engineering effort, although the commission will welcome any thoughts about conditions elsewhere in the park, such as the walking path.
“We excluded major engineering sort of work,” Maloney said. “In terms of the shoreline, we don’t want a big study of that. If they have observations, that’s great. We want the consultant to take into account the walking path, but we’re not asking them how to change it. That’s not in the scope.”