Flood reduction projects mesh with big plans for Libertyville's Nicholas-Dowden Park plans

The extent is yet to be determined, but in any scenario, improvements envisioned for Nicholas-Dowden Park in Libertyville are considerable.

The village is applying for a state grant in hopes of proceeding with a nearly $1.2 million master plan for the northern portion of the park. If not, there is a scaled back, $815,000 Plan B in the 2022-23 capital plan.

There also are more than $14 million in flood reduction projects planned to start next summer, including a detention area on the south side of Nicholas-Dowden.

Village officials hope to secure an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to enhance the park plan. The grant maximum is $400,000.

"I think we put together a pretty good application," village Administrator Kelly Amidei said. "This is a large community park."

Concepts with and without grant funding were developed for the 18-acre park in the south-central part of town.

The grant concept includes installing a "destination" playground, a new basketball court, two pickleball courts, a linear skate park, a native garden swale and walking loop.

There is about $815,000 for Nicholas-Dowden in the village's capital plan next year. But it has to be officially included in the upcoming budget to proceed. Discussion begins in late fall.

Village staff members have recommended the master plan for the north side of the park be done in its entirety if the grant is successful. That should be known early next year.

"If we don't get the grant, we'll scale back the project," Amidei said.

Nicholas-Dowden is next on the list for improvements under an overall parks master plan, approved in 2018, to guide development of village parks for 15 years.

A specific master plan for the park is considered an integral part of the state grant application. Planning began in June and was developed by consultant Hitchcock Design Group of Naperville with input from two community feedback meetings and an online survey.

Nicholas-Dowden is named after former village trustees Warren Nicholas, who served 33 years, and Jack Dowden, who served 13 years. Both died in the early 1960s. The park is in the flood-prone Highlands subdivision.

The neighborhood was inundated during a historic storm in July 2017 that dropped 7.5 inches of rain in 12 hours. Images of residents using boats to navigate flooded streets prioritized a villagewide stormwater master plan.

Two projects are planned for flood reduction in the Highlands neighborhood. The first would lower a portion of the southern part of Nicholas-Dowden Park to create a stormwater storage area. The $7.1 million project is expected to be done next summer.

The second involves installing larger storm sewers to better convey stormwater runoff. That estimated $7.3 million project is anticipated to be done in 2023.

"Part of what's driving this is we've got stormwater requirements, so we have to marry the two to achieve the objectives," said village Trustee Pete Garrity, who chairs the village board's parks and recreation committee.

Phase 1 of the master plan for Nicholas-Dowden Park in Libertyville includes new basketball and pickleball courts, upper right, and a destination playground, center. Courtesy village of Libertyville
  There are two flood reduction projects planned for the Highlands neighborhood, including a stormwater detention area scheduled to start construction next summer. Paul Valade/
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