Naperville Nature Center targeting late May reopening after flooding

  • Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville stayed dry despite 4 inches of rain in 48 hours over the weekend. A repaired manhole cover and a backflow prevention valve helped prevent the structure from flooding, as it did March 30 because of a sanitary sewer backup.

      Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville stayed dry despite 4 inches of rain in 48 hours over the weekend. A repaired manhole cover and a backflow prevention valve helped prevent the structure from flooding, as it did March 30 because of a sanitary sewer backup. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/1/2017 1:32 PM

Weekend storms that brought four inches of rain in 48 hours tested the temporary fixes installed to prevent Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville from flooding -- as it did earlier this spring.

The repairs held and the structure at 320 Knoch Knolls Road remained dry inside through Monday morning, Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said.

 

But the heavy rains made officials glad they've found the cause of the sanitary sewer backup that occurred March 30: a broken manhole cover about three-quarters of a mile from the facility.

The newly repaired cover was underwater Monday morning, LaCloche said, meaning if it remained broken, it could have spelled more trouble for the $6 million nature center, which opened in October 2014.

The sewer backup caused by the broken manhole cover brought two inches of water into the building in March, causing Naperville Park District to shut it down for cleanup and repairs.

The park district now estimates restoration will take another four to six weeks, meaning the center that educates about the importance of water in the ecosystem is projected to reopen around Memorial Day or shortly after.

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"We're all looking forward to getting the nature center back to being safe and available for all of our programming," park board President Rich Janor said Monday. "Mother Nature certainly has not been kind, here, in the past couple of months. But we're trying to do what we can to proactively address these situations."

After the flooding occurred, the city installed a valve on April 5 that the park district can employ to keep the nature center dry at its perch near the confluence of the east and west branches of the DuPage River.

Park district Executive Director Ray McGury and Janor said workers closed the valve Saturday before rains began, which helped keep the structure dry.

"That part seemed to go according to plan," Janor said.

But the valve also shuts off all water service to the building, McGury said. And that will cause a slight delay in repairs, as restoration crews were limited in the work they could accomplish Monday.

McGury said the park district plans to monitor rain and river levels in hopes of opening the valve Tuesday so repair work can continue unhampered. An insurance claim the park district filed is covering the cost of repairs to the building, which include new drywall and flooring.

The city installed the valve, fixed the manhole cover and will install an underground pump station as a secondary measure to further safeguard the nature center from flooding. LaCloche said the city does not yet have a cost estimate or time frame for when the pump station will be installed because the project requires engineering work to be completed first.

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