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RURAL PENFIELD — Visitors to Middle Fork River Forest Preserve will see a marked change in the swimming/fishing pond next year.

A Clinton, Ind., firm has been awarded the contract to do the work based on its bid of $603,000. That amount is below the bid estimate of $620,000.

Mike Daab, Champaign County Forest Preserve District deputy director for planning and development, said White Construction was awarded the contract.

The work will involve removing silt build up, increasing the depth of the pond, improving the grade and reshaping the slope of the pond and installing a compacted clay liner to prevent water leakage.

The project will also include removing an island on the east end of the pond and adding vegetation around many areas of the lake to discourage geese from populating that area. Many geese had frequented the lake, especially the island, and the vegetation is designed to work toward the geese’s natural fear of predators.

“They’ve got really strong instincts” regarding tall vegetation that might hold foxes and other predators, Daab said.

He said the beach will remain open for swimming, and certain other areas around the pond will remain open for fishing.

Brad Hill, area manager for White Construction, said the project is a bit out of the ordinary for the company.

“It’s a unique project, digging it out ... and getting a clay liner in,” he said. “It’s something you don’t come across every day.”

Hill said work will likely begin after the holidays.

A preconstruction meeting will be held with the company this week, Daab said, “and then we’ll start setting the schedule and the expectations from there.”

“As long as the ground’s not frozen, they should be able to get started, and that’s the plan.”

Draining the pond will be among the first, if not the first, phases. Hill said the water will be pumped to other areas of the park.

The company would like to get the work done before spring.

“Camping starts in May or June,” Hill said. “If we get it done before the spring rains, you should be in good shape, I would guess” to get a good start on filling the pond.

“As long as it don’t get too wet. If it does freeze, we’ll still be able to work.”

Said Daab: “We will appreciate the patience of campers and other members of the public through the upcoming season.”

He said the amount of rainfall will be a prime factor in how soon the pond is filled.

Hill said dealing with wet conditions will probably be the toughest part of the job.

The pond currently averages about 8 feet in depth, Hill said. The project will add 5 to 6 more feet.

The contract also calls for adding riprap (large stone) to protect the shoreline.

New sand for the beach will also be added.

The forest preserve district has a contract with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to restock the pond.

Hill said White Construction “does a lot of waterwork.”

“We just finished a project with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at Kickapoo State Park, where we corrected the slope on one of their lakes.”

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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