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Sylvan Slough Natural Area Restoration

A riverfront park in Rock Island that was seven years in the making and dedicated 16 years ago, is the Sylvan Slough Natural Area. Formerly an industrial site with the declared stigma of a brownfield because of past use, it was restored using innovative remediation saving money and reducing contaminant concentrations. This was done by EnviroNet, Davenport consulting firm, that excavated soils and then cleaned them using pioneering and groundbreaking remediation systems. The project was funded through USEPA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Open Lands Trust Grant and managed by Sally Heffernan, Rock Island senior planner and administrator of this City of Rock Island project. Following the clean up, four installations for clean water were installed:

  • First, a native prairie restoration on five acres was sowed with  prairie, meadow, and wildflower seeds. Then, dropseed and sedum were planted as a storm water buffer which also served as a wildlife habitat for birds, insects and small mammals.
  • Also designed and constructed in the natural area was an aquatic garden. A solar panel on a salvaged beam powers a small pump that circulates groundwater through the garden. Native plants, microbes, and insects complete this mini-ecosystem. The garden is sunken and has baskets made of wire mesh enclosed rocks which can be used as visitor seating.
  • In addition, over 100 trees were planted: honey locust, red maple, hackberry coffee tree, cottonwood, pagoda tree, and catalpa.
  • Finally, a rain garden and bioswales were installed.  The infiltration trench under the swales captures stormwater and the native plants, with their extensive root systems, filter pollutants from the water.

Twelve partners collaborated on this natural area, once an industrial site now turned into a park on the riverfront trail. Salvaged factory walls and foundations outline some of the display areas. Ten interpretive signs are scattered throughout the site along the trails.

Considerable human effort went into this restored area some 20 years ago; River Action is proud to have been one of the twelve collaborators on this natural area which is now a valuable public space celebrating and demonstrating best stormwater practices along the Mississippi River.