LFA A Big Part of Eberhart-Petro Revival Project
Lawson-Fisher Associates (LFA) has been involved with projects on the back nine of the Eberhart-Petro Golf Course for several years. Mason Petro, a Mayor of Mishawaka, in the 1930, submitted 10 projects for funding during his term and all 10 were approved by the State of Indiana for construction. One such project was Petro Park (North Side Park) in Mishawaka, now known as the “back nine.”
Abundantly full of historical features from Petro’s time, LFA is proud to help restore and preserve this piece of local history.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal’s created numerous programs to increase employment during the Great Depression. One such program was the WPA (Works Progress Administration) which provided funding for countless public works projects across the country. This property contains multitudes of WPA structures.
Petro Park was constructed in the mid-1930s. Willow Creek, which meanders through the course, was the highlight of the Petro Park WPA construction. The entire length of the creek banks are lined with fieldstone walls. Multiple bridges were hand constructed of fieldstone. Historical lore says the fieldstones were mined from the river for this and other projects in the area. Eberhart Golf Course was developed in the late 1920s across the river from Petro Park. In the late 1940s, the City determined to expand the course built the back nine in Petro Park. In making this change, and future changes to develop the course, parts of Willow Creek’s open channel were hard piped or filled in.
In 2000, due to its historic significance, the City of Mishawaka’s Historic Preservation Commission successfully petitioned the City to create the Petro Park Local Historic District to help protect features.
In 2021 during St. Joseph County Drainage Board maintenance of Willow Creek it was discovered that the stone walls lining Willow Creek’s banks were still intact in at least one location. Further investigation revealed the stone walls were intact in multiple locations. The City of Mishawaka, excited about this discovery, wanted to restore history to the course and add challenge to the golfers. Since open ditches allow more flow and are easier to maintain, the County supported removing pipe(s) and restoring the Creek to its original channel bed. County and City staff worked together with local contractors to open the first portion of the creek in spring 2021 and put plans in place to open additional portions of the creek in fall 2021/spring 2022.
LFA’s Construction Engineering staff played a significant role in the creek opening projects. Because there are no formal plans and the City wants to ensure implementation of sound engineering practices as creek elements are uncovered, LFA’s expert team was the choice.
As with many municipal lands, Petro Park was not a prime building site as it sits 3 feet below the St. Joseph River’s 100-year flood elevation. Additionally, Willow Creek traverses its way through this area and a spring feeds various features. Routine flooding of the back nine creates maintenance issues and concerns for the City and limits access which, in turn, closes this area regularly. LFA previously designed and monitored construction on multiple features to improve course drainage and reduce closure time. LFA also designed two bridges crossing the river from the front to the back nine and two pipe bridges. The pipe bridges utilized pipe not used on other projects and were field designed for the cart path: one over the creek itself and one for crossing the overflow of the creek when the water elevations are high. The pipe bridges have a façade matching historical construction in the area.
Of particular challenge on the course is the high-water table. Additionally, most work needs to be done off-season, November 15 to March 15, and all construction must strive to protect the course. Another challenge is limited access to the back nine. Bridges over the river are not rated for construction traffic and the entry arch on Shanower does not provide enough clearance to allow concrete trucks or larger dump trucks to pass under. Only single-axle dump trucks fit under the arch. Materials must be hauled to offsite staging locations and reloaded on to the single axle dump trucks. The work can be slow and progress unpredictable. LFA’s team monitors all activities and problem solves with the City to protect historic features, the course itself, and keep construction on task and as economic as possible.
A fieldstone archway bridge built during the 1930s will be incorporated in one portion of the newly excavated creek bed. To mitigate flooding issues, the course was built up about 3 feet from the original park grade leaving the stone walls about 3 feet below grade. To minimize course impact, most of the creek channel will only be about 4 feet below grade, matching the upstream pipe elevation. This reduces pond backflow onto the course and still exposes a portion of the stone wall. Inclusion of the bridge requires the creek bed to be about 6 feet below the course’s existing grade. Additionally, a grade control structure will be installed to prevent flow from eroding the channel bottom upstream to the desired level downstream. To keep with historic construction, the grade control structure will be a series of shallow waterfalls constructed of fieldstone set in mortar. However, following modern construction methods, the mortar will be set on top of concrete set on top of geofabric and a stone bed.
An earlier project impacting the course was the City’s Long Term Control Project Linden A Phase 1 which included twin 54-inch pipes crossing the course’s front nine to establish a separate storm sewer outfall for this area of the City, which helps to prevent dry weather overflows in combined sewer systems.
LFA continues to work on this piece of local history using modern engineering to solve problems and protect the park for generations to come.