Flooded Naperville nature center closed for 4-6 weeks

  • A pond and the DuPage River lie behind the Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville, but neither was overflowing when the building took on water last week. The nature center is expected to be closed for four to six weeks for repairs.

      A pond and the DuPage River lie behind the Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville, but neither was overflowing when the building took on water last week. The nature center is expected to be closed for four to six weeks for repairs. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville, which opened in October 2014, is closed for repairs for at least the next four to six weeks after a water problem caused about 2 inches to flood the 5,000-square-foot facility.

      Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville, which opened in October 2014, is closed for repairs for at least the next four to six weeks after a water problem caused about 2 inches to flood the 5,000-square-foot facility. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/3/2017 3:28 PM

Naperville Park District officials designed the Knoch Knolls Nature Center with the theme "Celebrate Water."

Now they're working to clean up the center after it mysteriously took on about 2 inches of unwanted water late last week.

 

Water began rising through the floor grates of the 2½-year-old building about 7 p.m. Thursday, after -- but not directly because of -- several hours of rains that day and the previous night, said Ray McGury, park district executive director.

The water damage required closure of the $6 million nature center, which opened in October 2014 in a 224-acre park at the confluence of the east and west branches of the DuPage River. Park board President Rich Janor called the issue "pretty upsetting."

"It's such an outstanding facility and it's so heavily utilized," he said about the nature center designed to educate children and adults about the role of water in supporting life and growth.

Behind the building is a pond, a field, and then the river. But McGury said neither body of water was overflowing its banks when the building began to take on water. The cause of the flooding remains under investigation.

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"It's definitely not anything related to the rainfall," McGury said. "It's not related to the river; it's not related to the pond."

Park district officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday with staff members from the city of Naperville, which provides the storm and sanitary sewer lines that service the property at 320 Knoch Knolls Road.

McGury said early assessments show a sanitary sewer problem likely caused the water backup. If that proves true, the park district and city will determine whose responsibility it is to fix the issue. Restoration has begun through the park district's insurance policy, and repairs are expected to take between four and six weeks.

Exhibits about waterways and the ecosystem weren't heavily damaged, but drywall will need to be replaced throughout the 5,000-square-foot nature center. The park district does not yet have a cost estimate for repairing the facility.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It is a mess," McGury said. "Unfortunately, it happened. But we'll fix it."

Parents of preschoolers enrolled in a program that meets at the nature center have been gracious and flexible as their children have been moved to classes at Seager Park Interpretive Center or the 95th Street Center, McGury said. Compass Church has provided some of its space in the 95th Street Center to give the park district extra classrooms, he said.

Park board members called the damage "unfortunate" and said they're dedicated to preventing future water problems at the facility.

"We'll get down to what caused it," park board member Marie Todd said, "and then make sure that it doesn't happen again."

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