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State grant means Rockford can tackle water run-off project improving Levings Park

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Levings Park is one of Rockford's best outdoor spots, but it's had sediment and pollution issues in the past from water run-off.

Now the state will step in to help.

"It's a dream of ours to bring the swimming beach back," Daniel Jarrett with West Rock Wake Park, a wake-boarding park that operates out of the lake, says.

But whenever it rains, Jarrett says water run-off drains sediment, goose poop, and pollution into the lake hurting the water quality and ecosystem. And for years, it's forced water closures because of algae blooms.

But a grant through Illinois Environmental Protection Agency means Rockford Park District now has the funding to address the problem and help with the upkeep.

"It's just a great example of Rockford Park District rallying their constituents to steward an amazing thing that we already have," Jarrett says.

The grant totals $204,000 to be exact and the park district will put in another $36,000 to build channels that naturally remove debris called bioswales that will stop pollutants before they even get to the lake.

Park District Board of Commissioners President Scott Olson explains how bioswales work: "They have filter strips in them and they slow down the water as it's coming into the lake. It allows the lake to filter into the soil and let the soil do its purification process."

The overall impact will be clearer water and, with less silt and sediment, better fishing.

"That way you'll have a sediment drop-off and it's just that a lot of this is out-of-date, and again if you come out here after a heavy storm, it's crazy what happens," Jarrett says.

Olson adds this project is long overdue.

The goal, they both say, is simple, clean up a Rockford gem so future generations can enjoy it.

Olson says this is one part of a much larger watershed project. In total, 500 acres drains into Levings Park.

The park district will be designing the bioswales this year and Olson expects the project to start and be completed next year.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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