Based on a preliminary discussion of options for reclaiming the landscape in Swan Pond Park, it seems clear that it’s going to take some decent investment, if not next year then over a period of years.
Certainly, it’s going to cost more than the $27,000 village officials have put in as a placeholder in the village’s 2017 budget.
This is a real opportunity, though, and Riverside ought to embrace it. In 2012, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was driving the improvements and the village itself made some really puzzling choices regarding the extent of native plantings and the makeup of the walking path.
Four years and four floods later, Riverside has hired a firm with the kind of expertise needed to help the village reclaim this important public space. And instead of trying to make Swan Pond Park into something it was never intended to be, the firm is recommending that Riverside embrace the park’s wetlands character.
Options that Living Habitats has presented to the village’s Landscape Advisory Commission have ranged from the modest to the expansive, and commissioners last week both embraced the concept of a wider wetlands planting area and the need for caution in the face of the debacle that followed the Army Corps’ final product.
But the landscape of the area in the lowest part of the park is just a part of the overall picture in Swan Pond. While getting that area right is critical, Living Habitats also pointed out the need for attention to other aspects of the park.
While there was some clearing of scrub trees along the river bank, more attention needs to be paid to opening up those views and keeping them clear once the clearing is done.
Heavy scrub that has grown over through the decades on the slope of the bluff leading down from the west and around the WPA-era wall inside the park has all but eliminated the kinds of open vistas Frederick Law Olmsted called for in his original plan for the village.
Benches on the top of the bluff that once had sweeping views of the park and river below are now obscured by brush that has grown slowly but inexorably through the many years.
In recent years, the village public works department has spent a good deal of effort – well-spent by the way – clearing views of the river along Bloomingbank, Fairbank and Riverside roads. There also needs to be a plan and funding for it to reclaim views of the river and Swan Pond Park.
Like roads and sewers and water mains, Swan Pond Park is an important part of Riverside’s infrastructure, its natural infrastructure. We’re glad the village is making a serious attempt to come up with a plan to reclaim the landscape, and we hope there’s a will to fund not just an initial outlay to repair the landscape of the low area but a global plan to maintain it through the years.