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Residents question execution of Prentiss Creek restoration

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 6:10 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman – backerman@shawmedia.com)
Virginia DiGiacomo and her grandson, Anthony Kaempf , 8, look out over Prentiss Creek in Downers Grove on Thursday.

DOWNERS GROVE – Some residents along Prentiss Creek are worried a village-funded wetland restoration project will not be executed in the same way it was first presented to homeowners.

The $374,176 project looks to reconfigure and naturalize a small pond along the creek that has slowly filled in with sediment deposits, leading to low water levels, mud flats, bad odors and scattered dead branches and garbage.

The creek flows between two subdivisions, Beverly Glen and Kensington Place, just south of 63rd Street and Woodward Avenue.

The plan is to remove a dam built in the '70s that created the pond, allowing water to flow freely down the creek, and to add native plants to stabilize the banks. The wetland restoration project, ideally, would improve the water quality and allow frogs, fish and other wildlife to return.

The creek was identified in the village's Watershed Improvement Plan in 2007, but village of Downers Grove spokesperson Doug Kozlowski said it was the urging of the homeowners that prompted the village to take action at the location in the last two years. It contracted with V3 Construction Group last year to perform the work.

"We want to make it clear that we have worked directly with the official representatives of both of those homeowners associations," he said. "They have acknowledged the project."

Beverly Glen Homeowners Association President Jerry Garner did not return calls for comment, and contact information for the Kensington Place Homeowners Association was not available.

Garner and an agent for Kensington Place did sign a village document acknowledging the project and providing the necessary construction access easement.

Georgia Kaempf's backyard faces the creek. She said when the project was first proposed in October 2011, she and other neighbors were excited it would return beauty to what had once been a nice pond but had become an eyesore.

"It was really nice," she said, referring to the pond when she moved in about 10 years ago. "We had frogs, we had turtles in here, all kinds of stuff."

But she became concerned with the direction of the project last spring after an initial round of plantings in the mud flats all died and washed away.

Kaempf also pointed to some project items, shown to residents at the October 2011 presentation, that are now listed in the project budget as $71,866 in "alternative items" as a sign that residents might not get what they were initially promised.

Village officials said they have not changed the plan.

Andy Sikich, assistant director of public works for Downers Grove, said it is doing a combination of the same two options that were originally presented to homeowners.

"We're doing exactly what we said were were going to do," he said.

Sikich said the village hopes to finish the majority of the work by the end of the year. It is waiting on permits before it can remove the dam.

When the project is finished, the wetland will require maintenance, such as sprayings and possible controlled burns, Sikich said. The village said the homeowners associations own the creek, and will be responsible for this upkeep, with the exception of a 50-foot easement owned by the city.

Kaempf, and neighbors Nell Posmer and Cynthia Prieto, contend that the associations have never owned the creek, and the village is trying to pass the buck.

"It's not our property, and it's never been our property," Prieto said.

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