Naperville Park District working to overcome drought challenges

Donate Today Buy This Video

The Naperville Park District is facing some challenges to keep green spaces green during this year’s drought.

“We’ve had some extended period of drought in previous years but to have it this earlier in the year is a bit unusual,” said Tim Quigley, the organization’s director of parks.  “It definitely is one of the worst years we’ve experienced in the past 20.”

The park district is putting in extra work hours and using more water than usual to compensate for the lack of rain.

“So typically, out here on the Riverwalk, staff completes their watering cycle in one to two days during normal weather patterns,” he said.  “During this droughty season, staff has been watering five to six days per week.”

Battling drought using irrigation systems

To cut down on additional water use, the park district has irrigation systems in place, such as one that automatically draws water from the Paddleboat Quarry, which is then funneled into the nearby sprinkler system.

“By being able to draw water from the quarry, we certainly do cut down on the amount of city water, which does save on costs and gives us an almost unlimited supply of water,” said Quigley.

Similar systems are in place at other parks around the city, including:

  • Nike Park
  • Knoch Park
  • Frontier Park
  • Commissioners Park
  • Wolf’s Crossing Community Park

In addition, the city’s two golf courses – Springbrook and Naperbrook – have their own irrigation systems.

“[The] sprinkler system pumps water from ponds located directly on the golf courses and they are re-charged by wells on the golf courses,” said Kevin Carlson, director of golf for the park district.  “So we don’t actually hook into the water supply.”

They’ve certainly taken advantage of that system the past couple of months, drawing twice as much water as usual during the drought.

“The drought is what has been the biggest impact for us and everybody else. We’ve gone through the last six weeks without 4/10 of an inch of rain.  We’re looking at a deficit of six to seven inches right now for the last two months.”

Carlson says while some of the turf is looking a little rough, they’re making it a priority to keep the teeing ground and putting greens on par.

Positive effects of the drought on golf courses

The upside of the drought is that it’s driving about 50% more golfers out to both of the Naperville Park District’s golf courses.

“Normally you’ll have rainouts and days where people don’t come out. We haven’t had any rainouts whatsoever so we’re averaging close to 275 rounds a day for the last four to six weeks, which is just wonderful for getting people out to the golf course,” said Carlson. “They actually don’t mind when the turf goes dormant in the rough because it’s a lot easier to play on.”

Hoping for rain

With rain forecast for Thursday night into the weekend, it’s a welcome change for both Naperville’s parks and its golf courses.

“We’re looking forward to any rain that might develop later this week,” said Quigley.  “We’re about 40% to where we should be at this time of the year.  Any little bit helps.”

What financial impact this may have on the park district remains to be seen, but the organization is hopeful the systems in place will minimize such impact.

If you have a story idea, we want to hear from you.