Thousands of years ago, when Lake Michigan was Lake Chicago, the massive body of glacial water’s western bank made it all the way out to Oak Park.
Ridgeland Avenue’s namesake ridge was the end of the lake, and it’s left some interesting features behind — most notably smack dab on the corner of Taylor Park at Ridgeland and Division Street.
The big hill left by the lake is scenic, but it tends to let water run right down its side, pooling in the southeast corner — not a pretty result.
So, when the Park District of Oak Park tackled a redesign for Taylor Park in 2008, they knew they would have to do something about the perpetually sloppy and muddy corner.
The conventional option would have been to install a massive underground water drainage system, keeping the park dry but pouring more water into the sewers.
So the park district’s contractor on the design, landscape architecture firm Altamanu, proposed a different tactic: a wetland.
“What we tried to do was to have innovative storm water management that was very green and very native,” said park designer John Mac Manus. “Also, it’s an event — something of interest.”
The park district is planning to install native Illinois wetland plants in the corner, as well as conditioning the soil to deal with the water in a more organized way. They’re planning to install a bridge on the southeast corner, as well, and fence off the area to keep children and dogs from splashing around in the mud.
The park district is getting underway on the project next spring and expects to be finished by next fall. They’ll also resurface Taylor’s tennis courts and install new lighting as part of the project.