A crumbling, U-shaped asphalt entrance road at Mooney Cemetery in Highland Park has been resurfaced with permeable pavers. They are intended to solve flooding problems by channeling rainwater through underground pipes into two rain gardens.
Moraine Township officials, with an eye toward a coming public event, believe the cemetery drainage project, part of a master landscaping plan, will serve as an educational tool on rainwater management, landscaping and vegetation use.
"We hope we have a lot of numbers at the October open house," said Anne Flanigan Bassi, Moraine Township supervisor, "because we're finding new ways to address old problems, as we fill up more and more space that was concrete with stuff that is not concrete."
Bassi said the cost of the project, including purchase of 750 plants, was about $185,000, including $31,280 from a Lake County Stormwater Management Commission grant.
The cemetery sits on 1.56 acres on Ridge Road, near Deerfield Road, and is one of two public cemeteries in Moraine Township. The other is Daggitt Cemetery at the corner of Lake Cook Road and St. Johns Avenue.
Bassi expressed optimism, based on calculations by landscape architects, that the pavers will go a long way toward solving the cemetery's drainage and flooding problems, which created "ponds" on the grounds during heavy rains and left sections of grave markers submerged.
"This way, with the permeable pavers, which replaced asphalt, the rainwater seeps through and the pipes direct it over to the two rain gardens. These are very deep gardens, and the tallest, deepest root plants in the bottom will absorb the water and gradually release it into the ecological system," Bassi said.
Joanne Lange said she's been coming to the cemetery for nearly 70 years and "has at least 20 relatives down there, so it's important to me that it's being taken care of. The area where my parents and grandparents are buried would get wet and soggy when it rains."
Technical expertise for the project came from volunteer master gardeners from the University of Illinois Extension and Botanic Gardens, Highland Park's park district restoration staff and stormwater management planners.
Bassi said the town board had considered permeable concrete, but went with permeable pavers because they cost less per square foot. "The pavers also work on cleaning the water" because it's not running off pavement and picking up oils and other pollutants.
"Most of the monuments and stones are just flat to the ground, and when they're underwater, it's disrespectful if we can't figure out a way to make it better," Bassi said.
Over 70 volunteers helped set up two rain gardens earlier this month after 8,200 square feet of pavers had been installed, The volunteers, Including neighbors, Boy Scouts and members of various charitable and service organizations, set the plants into the rain gardens, about 1,300 square feet in total, and spread mulch.
"We think what we did at the cemetery is both addressing drainage and making the roadway more aesthetic," Bassi said.