Reflecting History

City of Geneva (Ill.) staff members team up to restore a pond at the wastewater treatment plant originally established in 1933
Reflecting History

Pride runs deep at the wastewater treatment plant in the City of Geneva, Ill., and a 20-foot-diameter fish and wildlife pond reflects that pride for visitors to the plant, and for bicyclists and hikers who enjoy the pathway that runs next to the plant.

The pond dates to 1933, when the city built its treatment plant under the supervision of Juanita Martin, a 23-year-old woman who brought the project online within budget and on time.

“Juanita signed contracts, hired men, and bought materials for the job,” says Bob Van Gyseghem, superintendent of water and wastewater. “And she directed day laborers with the same vim and tact she used when dealing with bankers and government inspectors.”

One federal inspector pronounced her concrete work comparable to the best in the state. Her father’s construction company handled the project, which included a decorative rock garden and a waterfall. City officials were so satisfied with her work that they publicly dedicated and christened the area Juanita Park.


Bringing it back

After a plant expansion in the 1970s, a lack of upkeep led to the pond’s deterioration, so it was filled in with gravel. However, another expansion in 2004 at the single-stage activated sludge plant inspired a proud staff to resurrect the pond for the enjoyment of visitors, and to further recognize the accomplishments of Juanita Martin.

Staff members donated their time to rehabilitate the 6-foot-deep pond. “Workers were here on Saturdays and Sundays and at no cost to the plant,” says plant supervisor Dan Dobnick. They laid natural limestone from a nearby quarry, built a small waterfall, planted flowers and grasses, and added a number of colorful Japanese koi and goldfish.

“We’re fortunate here in Geneva to have a lot of talented people in our departments,” says Van Gyseghem. “We had people from our water department, our collection department, and maintenance department all come down to help us make the pond look as it appears in photos taken in 1933.”


Showing the way

The 2004 plant expansion, which increased design average flow to 5 mgd and design maximum capacity to 12.5 mgd, also inspired a new 4- by 8-foot sign that identifies the entrance road to the plant. The plant shared the $5,000 cost of the sign with the Geneva Park District because access to a city park and the bike trail is through that same entrance road.

“Making a nice new sign for the front entrance to the plant was one of the final touches to our expansion,” says Van Gyseghem. The sign stands along a major thoroughfare in this city of 22,000, which straddles the Fox River. The hand-carved oak sign includes the image of a duck in its natural habitat, since ducks nest each spring near the plant clarifiers.

“The treatment plant has always been an area of duck habitat, and each season we see a hatch of anywhere from 15 to 20 wood ducks,” says Dobnick. “The sign is in a perfect spot on top of a hill. It’s seen by everyone who passes by in cars, and by everyone who uses the road to our plant to visit nearby Island Park, the bike path or the Fox River.”

Future plans include installing a gate in the iron fence that separates the bike path from the plant, allowing plant visitors to enjoy the pond and use it as a rest stop along the trail.


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