Engineers told Lisa Wilson her Carol Stream house is the very first to flood in an area near Armstrong Park that is always hard-hit during heavy rains.
So on Thursday leaders said it was appropriate that Wilson was the first to swing a hammer during a ceremony that marked the removal of the Aldrin Community Center, which sits within Armstrong Park, and launched a $5 million project to ease flooding in the area.
"We are absolutely thrilled," said Wilson, who has lived in her home for 20 years. "Our neighbors, we've all been through so much. This will bring us some peace of mind."
About 40 officials from DuPage County, Carol Stream and other project partners gathered Thursday for the ceremony to start the building's demolition. The Aldrin Community Center was "retired" last month after serving for more than 41 years as pioneering facility and a beloved gathering place. It had housed park district administrative offices and served as a meeting location for the park district's board of commissioners.
The aging building had become too expensive to maintain, said officials. Now it will make way for the $5 million Klein Creek flood mitigation project that includes two water reservoirs and a pumping station. Engineers said they hope some flood control will be realized by spring 2013.
Once the Aldrin Center is razed and the underground pool within the building is removed, engineers will focus on constructing the reservoirs, said Sarah Ruthko, DuPage County senior project engineer. The next step is to create a siphon that will rerelease floodwaters into Klein Creek after rain has finished and water levels have returned to normal. Ruthko said this is slated to be finished summer 2013.
"We were totally unprepared (for the 2008 flood), no question about it," Carol Stream Village President Frank Saverino said to the gathered crowd. "That is a burning memory. But we will do everything in our power to stop this. Will flooding ever stop completely? I don't know. But we're not going to quit."
Demolition of the Aldrin Center and improvements at Armstrong are among many changes under way in the park district. The park district also plans improvements at Armstrong, such as raised ball fields with new lights, a snack bar, rebuilt parking lot and resurfaced trails.
And as part of a $37 million upgrade plan approved by voters in 2010, the park district is building a new 91,000-square-foot recreation center near the intersection of Lies Road and Gary Avenue. That facility will include an indoor pool, basketball courts, a fitness center and other amenities. It is tentatively expected to open in 2013.
Upgrades also include the creation of a new dog park, which opened in fall, and various improvements to other parks.