Riverside residents and some village trustees who commented on a preferred style for a proposed Des Plaines River floodwall appeared to favor an option that combined Olmsted’s walls in Boston’s Franklin Park and The Rockery in Easton, Massachusetts. (COURTESY OF VILLAGE OF RIVERSIDE)

Riverside trustees could come to a consensus on a tentative design for a floodwall to protect the low-lying area adjacent to the Des Plaines River between Park Place and Pine Avenue by April 15, setting the wheels in motion for officials and residents alike to get a clearer picture of just where and how big that wall is going to be and how it is located.

During a discussion of the subject at the village board’s April 1 meeting, trustees appeared to indicate a preference for a design option that combined Frederick Law Olmsted’s wall design for Franklin Park in Boston with his design for The Rockery in Easton, Massachusetts.

But, they held off on a formal recommendation, because they said they wanted to hear more from residents as well as from the Riverside Preservation Commission and Landscape Advisory Commission which will discuss design options at Zoom meetings scheduled, respectively, for April 8 at 7 p.m. and April 13 at 7 p.m.

Meeting access information is available at the Riverside website at riverside.il.us.

The village board will again take up the subject and likely vote to recommend a design at their April 15 meeting, which will be held virtually via Zoom, at 7 p.m.

“What we need most right now is to hear from all of you [residents], so please reach out to us and let us know your thoughts,” said Village President Ben Sells.

The village is in a critical time period in the floodwall project, with final designs being created and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determining the exact location of the wall, particularly in the area along the river south of Forest Avenue, where it will run through the backyards residences on the west of West Avenue.

While the Army Corps has given residents some basic projections about the height and location, the village would like them to mark the exact path the wall will take and provide sample panels to demonstrate how tall it’s going to be.

Mary Erangey, a West Avenue homeowner, said she wanted to know just how much property she was going to lose – the floodwall requires a 15-foot easement on either side of it – and expressed concern that none of the renderings so far indicated any river access points for residents who now have unfettered access to the water.

Michelle Patterson, who lives in a condo on West Avenue, suggested that officials give more weight when it came to choosing a wall design to the opinions of residents like her, who will end up having to live with it day to day.

Meanwhile, West Avenue homeowner Patrick O’Laughlin implored elected officials to consider the financial impact building a floodwall in their backyards would have on their properties. He said he believed the wall could cause “undue harm” to his family by making his property impossible to sell.

“This project has been hanging over our heads for years now,” said O’Laughlin.

Sells said all of those concerns were the reason village officials needed to get a preferred wall design settled. Before the Army Corps will make its final calculations, the village needs to get signoff on its preferred design by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office. 

“[Once we can get] Army Corps out and they can show us exactly where that wall is going to be, then we have something solid that we can work off of,” Sells said. “But, I can tell you that all of us appreciate, to the degree we can appreciate it from afar, the impact and the stress and the uncertainty that this is having on you and the other folks over there on West [Avenue].”