Riverside wins county grant for Swan Pond path

Village still awaits ruling on using state funds for impervious surface

October 20th, 2020 2:44 PM

A cyclist looks over at the flood waters in Swan Pond Park while riding a bike along the river trail after heavy rains in May 2019. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

By Bob Uphues


The village of Riverside learned earlier this month that it has been awarded a $50,000 grant through the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways' Invest in Cook program, which provides funding for transit and alternative transportation infrastructure projects.

This year, the county awarded grants to help fund 30 such projects, with Riverside's falling into the "alternative transportation" category. The money will go toward reconstructing the 2,078-foot-long bike/walking path that winds along the Des Plaines River in Swan Pond Park.

The existing asphalt path, which is too narrow and has suffered damage from repeated flooding, was built in 2012 as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to remove two dams on the river and regrade the park to improve drainage there.

The Riverside Village Board is on the cusp of approving its 2021 operating budget, and included in that document is a $475,000 line item to reconstruct the path. The new path would be widened to 10 feet and be constructed out of exposed aggregate concrete, making it ADA compliant, more durable and accessible for a wider range of uses.

The new path is also seen a possible connector to the 55-mile long Des Plaines River Trail, which is still in the final design stage.

However, it's unclear whether the Swan Pond Park path will be able to be constructed in 2021. One of the principal holdups is the fate of $350,000 awarded to the village of Riverside by the Illinois general Assembly in 2019 as part of its Capital Bill.

That money was awarded specifically for the construction of a permeable pavement path along the river. Village officials determined such a path would be not only too expensive but impractical. Since Swan Pond Park is in a flood plain and is not connected to the village's sewer system, a permeable path isn't seen as necessary.

The village has, through state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), inquired whether the $350,000 state grant can be repurposed for a non-permeable path. Last week, Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances said she has not yet received an answer on that question and did not know when she might get one.

If Riverside gets the OK later this year, there's still time to begin design engineering in 2021, but that still leaves open the question of whether the state will release the funds in time for construction next year.

The job wouldn't be particularly complicated, said Public Works Director Edward Bailey, who called it "a remove-and-replace job" and likened it to laying a long stretch of sidewalk.

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  • Susan Wilkens (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 27th, 2020 11:30 AM

    I'm curious to see the plan for widening the path to 10' in the places where it's currently bordered fairly closely by both the river and a huge tree. Cut down the trees???

  • Fred Mertz (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 24th, 2020 8:27 AM

    Earl hits it right on the button, local politicians treat grant money like it fell from heaven, instead of from taxpayers. If Riverside needs more than a basic gravel path thru the floodplain, then they should pay for it, without help from the county and state.

  • Earl Hickey (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 23rd, 2020 6:34 PM

    How long will the Village of Riverside persist in the Sisyphean task of trying to fix the unfixable and repair the unrepairable ? I am speaking of The Path in Swan Pond. For years the Village has tried to construct a path in this flood plain and for years Mother Nature has swept away their efforts and tax dollars. Isn't it time to admit defeat and let the area return to its natural state - a Flood Plain . Our State is broke and getting broker and projects like this are making the financial situation of the State and County, worse. It's easy to pour money into projects like this when it doesn't come from the taxpayers in the Village but from the State and County. One problem - both County and especially the State are dead , flat broke. Where is the $350K coming from when the State has a bill back log of close to $8 billion , a budget deficit of $5 billion+ and then those unfunded pensions? Can't the village just say NO to this and similar projects at least until the State's finances are stabilized ? Alternatively , how about asking Riverside residents for MORE tax dollars to finance the project? Maybe Riverside officials are afraid of the reaction if they tried that.

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