A landscape architect hired by the village of Riverside to develop a sustainable landscape plan for Swan Pond Park has told members of the village’s Landscape Advisory Commission that the 2012 plan for the park fell woefully short in its wetlands plantings, likely contributing to the amount of water that collects in the lowest area of the park, near the drainage culvert.

“A good chunk of that [area] is saturated more than 50 percent of the time and was minimally addressed with this plan,” said Heidi Natura, of Living Habitats, the firm chosen by the Landscape Advisory Commission in August.

At a minimum, Natura said the lowest area, which covers 28,000 square feet, ought to feature wetlands plants, but she said that area could be increased to an acre or more depending on just how far the village wanted to go.

Landscape commissioners appeared to favor a wetlands area greater than 28,000 square feet, but implemented in phases because of the cost for such a plan. The price tag for just the smallest suggested wetlands area, covering 30,000 square feet, would be about $45,000.

The village has tentatively budgeted $27,000 in 2017 for Swan Pond Park restoration. However, Trustee Ellen Hamilton, who is the village board’s liaison to the Landscape Advisory Commission, said that wasn’t necessarily a hard cap.

“It’s not as if we can sit and not do anything with Swan Pond,” Hamilton said.

Living Habitats and the Landscape Advisory Commission tentatively are slated to present a recommendation to trustees at the village board’s Oct. 20 meeting. That design will be informed by input that landscape commissioners gave to Living Habitats on Sept. 13.

Apart from recommending plants that thrive in a wetlands setting, commissioners agreed that the solution should be one that could be phased in over time, not only because such a plan would be expensive, but because they wanted to make sure it would succeed.

“I’d like to start small and see it in action, withstand flooding and establish itself,” said Cathy Maloney, chairwoman of the Landscape Advisory Commission. “I don’t want to put a lot of money into it and see it get washed away.”

Swan Pond Park was regraded in 2012 in conjunction with the Hofmann Dam removal effort. When it came time to cover the regraded earth at that time, plans changed at the last minute and the amount of native plantings serving as a cover crop in the low area of the park was reduced, apparently at the request of the village.

An October 2012 article in the Landmark noted that there was a “last-minute change” requested by the village, to reduce the cover crop containing native plants so that a grassy open area would be preserved for activities such as soccer.

In mid-October 2012, a grass seed/mulch mixture was sprayed over most of the regraded area of the park. The wetlands plantings were relegated to a fenced-in 2,500-square foot rectangle immediately in front of the drainage culvert.

Then in January and February of 2014, that rectangular mass of planting was physically lifted and moved away from the culvert by intense flooding. While the wetlands plants have spread since that time, standing water is still an issue in the low area of the park.

During the Landscape Advisory Commission’s meeting on Sept. 13, Natura suggested various alternatives for re-landscaping the park, all of which call for a marked expansion of wetlands plantings in the lowest area of Swan Pond Park.

Natura also said that the “mat” of native plants dating from 2012 should be uprooted and that the village ought to approach the area as a clean slate.

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