Return to Jackson Park JPAC homepage. Return to JPAC News and Bulletins.
Archive on Wooded Island ecosystem and planning and template, A walkthrough a few years ago and photos.
Lagoon Restoration Project 2001-03.
JPAC official website-
Skylanding. Project 120. Japanese Garden of the Phoenix.

JPAC information and discussion on the 2014 US Army Corps of Engineers - Chicago Park District
Jackson Park Section 506 Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Project (GLFER).

Wooded Island stewardship interview. Please use the link to the video:
More information at
- April 2018 and first workdays 2018

1. General matters of Wooded Island.
2. The Ecostystem Restoration project from start to today (entering its 3rd year (of 5)
3. Oct. 2018 Summary by year and with links by Russell Heinrichs, GLFER Jackson Park project manager.

See also the 2014 MOU between CPD and Project 120, including Exhibit E.

JPAC, with the requests and support of numerous community members, birders, and Japanese Garden visitors asked for weekend open hours. Tours may be offered periodically in appropriate weather.

We are pleased to announce that Wooded Island has been open permanently for all visitors since Oct. 22nd 2016. In November, 2017, fences, except around the staging areas (and of course Darrow Bridge) have been removed.
Jake Young, assoc. steward and JPAC IT, wrote the following November 7 2017
[See this in our Facebook page: JacksonParkAdvisoryCouncil/ posts/1697018876975373]
Gary Ossewaarde

Hi neighbors,

For those of you who haven't ventured over to Jackson Park in the past week, I'm happy to report the majority of the fences have come down! This allows access to new paths and overlooks just east of Cornell and on the north/south sides of the lagoons. There's still some fencing around the staging area in the SW corner of the park, as this project is ongoing through Fall 2019.

While there has been a lot of discussion regarding Jackson Park recently, there hasn't been much talk about the nearly $8 million project focused solely on ecological restoration. The Water Resources Development Act authorized this federal project through Section 506, the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program (GLFER). It's a 5 year capital improvement project to promote wildlife habitat within the park through a historically-based landscape preservation plan.

The project partners include the Chicago Park District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Project 120 Chicago. Additionally, leading Olmsted experts at Heritage Landscapes worked on the site designs, while Applied Ecological Services worked on the construction. Lauren Umek, the CPD Project Manager, has done an amazing job coordinating all of the moving parts of this complex project.

The current project scope covers nearly 83 acres of natural areas: the enhancement of 58 acres at Wooded Island and the lagoons and addition of 24 acres of new natural areas surrounding the island, near the Statue of the Republic, and along the west side of Lake Shore Drive.

The ecosystem improvements include the installation of over 180 trees, 11,000 shrubs, and over 600,000 native plants, that include more than 300 different species of trees, shrubs, ferns, vines, grasses, and flowering plants that will increase the biological diversity of the park and provide critical habitat and beautiful scenery for park visitors.

To improve access and circulation throughout the park the following has been installed: 9 overlooks along the water’s edge, nearly 8,000 linear feet (lf) of new, crushed stone pathways, and the reconstruction of almost 4,000 lf of existing pathways on Wooded Island.

There are still many plants to install, so staying on the paths and respecting people working on site remains important. Everyone now has the opportunity to enjoy the space while improvements continue to be made.

On a different note, I'd like to thank JPAC President Louise McCurry for being a tireless park advocate, who, among other things, has been responsible for overseeing 1000's of volunteer hours in Jackson Park this year alone. And, thank you to Jerry Levy for his continued stewardship of wonderful Wooded Island, and to Norm Bell/Gail Parry for their ongoing stewardship efforts at beautiful Bobolink Meadow.

In addition to having these wonderful natural areas to enjoy, we're beyond lucky to have such passionate people volunteering their time to nurture them. Good neighbors indeed!

Jake / JPAC

PS - If you're interested in seeing a few photos of the new paths and current conditions, I've shared some at the following link.

Update April 2018. Lauren Umek writes, "Applied Ecological Services is out there now full time. This year, we plan to complete all of the plant installations, these should start in mid-May."

The first 2018 groups/workdays are coming to Wooded Island April 14 and 28 10 am-1 pm. That on the 14th with UC volunteers starts from the north bridge to the Island. Regular workdays start from the south bridge/Hayes parking lot.
There is also a special workday on Earth Day April 21 7:30-9 am on the Hayes Dr. soccer fields and along the lagoon edges starting atas the golf dddriving drange parking lot..
And Bobolink workdays are 2nd Saturdays (April 14) 90-noon from the golf driving range parking lot.

Meanwhile, some observers are disturbed about conditions of the white irrigation pipes, the various netting or fencing to protect laggon edge vegetation, and more. Some responses:

Lauren writes:" I will bring the PVC piping and the fence to separate the fish under the Darrow Bridge to the attention of the army corps and their contractors. They have been removing the temporary irrigation in areas where it is no longer needed and repairing/replacing pipes in the few areas were watering was still needed. Nothing is connected to water during this time of year, so lack of connection does not necessarily mean a lack of use. Irrigation was used on site as a temporary measure so that plants could be installed throughout the year (otherwise, you would avoid planting in the typically hotter and drier months of July and August), but once established, native plants no longer require additional water..... There is still chain link fencing around the contractor’s staging area and trailer office, but the rest of the chainlink has been removed.
Other, temporary plastic fencing was to prevent people from stepping on newly planted plants to give them a chance to grow. Some additional temporary plastic fencing was installed around the edges of the lagoon to prevent common carp, who are muck-dwellers from uprooting the thousands of lagoon plants installed."


General Wooded Island

In November-December 2016, several concerns about Wooded Island were raised. At the December meeting, JPAC held an open discussion (albeit abbrevited) on these, Wooded Island rules and signage (including re dogs on the Island and fishing) and overnight security (not discussed but immediate issues are being addressed). There is also anxiety to look into some kind of parking option closer to the Island (no solution yet in sight) and to keep on the radar opening the trail around the south end of the lagoon as son as feasible, as well as a number of specific amenities concerns. Here are responses/discussion on some of these.

Questions raised about Wooded Island and sinage and some responses

Lauren Umek, CPD project manager writes November/December 2016. (ed. By Gary Ossewaarde, JPAC)

The concerns [recently] brought up...are timely and already on our radar. Wooded Island and the areas around it are entering year 3 of a 5 year restoration project and while we did allow public access to Wooded Island this October, much of the work planned here is not complete and thus not all of the amenities have been replaced or installed yet. So, no, these are not trivial concerns to be mocked, but things that are very much on CPD’s radar and are in progress. I’ll address [the] main concerns [of a park-user’s letter to CPD:]
1. Water fountains – we are looking into an appropriate location for both best public access and efficient installation considering infrastructure for a new water fountain, but this won’t occur until spring at earliest.
2. Installation of a new bike rack near the Japanese garden is also in the works – again, this would happen in spring at the earliest due to weather.
3. There are several, at least 4 pairs of garbage and recycling bins on Wooded Island – a pair near each of the new overlooks as well as near the north and south entrances to the island. Many of these bins are a painted metal type, and not the larger, plastic style that were there and are common in other parks. (Receptacles [whose placement had raised concerns] are being moved off the overlooks themselves.)
4. The benches that are currently on Wooded Island are an older bench style and we are looking into repair or replacement options. Broken wood slats were replaced as a fix until a longer term solution is reached. Benches cannot be replaced under the Army Corps project as that project and its related funds are dedicated to ecosystem restoration (and not public amenities).
I am sympathetic to the “bump” feel of the new concrete pathway but encourage park users to view this as an opportunity to take a moment in our busy urban lives to slow down and appreciate the space, flora and fauna of the island. There are many other ways to travel on asphalt quickly on wheels throughout the city, but there is only one Wooded Island.

Regarding park rules and signage (by Lauren Umek)- New park signs were installed prior to re-opening of Wooded Island to the public as the site enters year 3 of the 5 year Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration project. These new signs now include historic and nature-oriented photos of the park, maps, a description of the recent park improvements, and the park rules. These rules include Park District wide rules (i.e. permits required for large gatherings and no littering, alcohol, smoking, vehicles, etc.) as well as site specific rules that are determined by park staff. The rules on this sign, while the language has been adjusted, are the same as before with the addition of the new rule “Do not touch or climb on the Sky Landing artwork” that accompanies the installation of Sky Landing and is a standard rule for public art/non-playground structures. |
Of the rules that seem to be of conversation within the community – dogs and fishing – these rules are not new and were posted on signs to the island for several years, and were replaced with new, improved signs so that they would be more visible. Fishing has been and will remain prohibited from Wooded Island. There are currently no fish stocked in the lagoon at the moment (only small fish introduced for migratory birds), and will not be stocked for game fishing, so this rule is new but not really applicable at this time.

From Chicago Park District Code - Chapter 7, B10. a (1)
“… Animals may not enter or remain in any building, zoo, playground, harbor, lagoon, swimming pool, spray pool, garden, athletic field, animal or bird refuge, or other areas that may be designated by signs as prohibited areas….” The entire Code - Chapter 7, which covers laws, hours, restricted areas, destruction of property, fines, renaming, permits, and animals (B.10), is found in:

(See PDF version of this Newsletter for picture of current sign with rules.)
From one of the new signs: Natural Areas- Chicago Park District

  • Remain on pathways at all times
  • Do not feed the wildlife
  • Littering, drinking alcohol, smoking, and use of all tobacco produsts are strictly prohibited
  • Parties or large groups, etc. require a permit
  • Dogs disturb wildlife and are not allowed on Wooded Island
  • Unauthorized vehicles are prohibited on the island
  • Fishing is prohibited in Wooded Island lagoons
  • Bicycles must remain outside of the Garden of the Phoenix
  • Do not touch or climb on the Sky Landing artwork
  • Wooded Island closes at sunset. Violators are subject to arrest.

Please report any concerns or vandalism immediately to Chicago Park District Security (312) 474-2193.

From the November 14 2016 JPAC meeting minutes:

[Jerry] Levy reported that Army Corps work over the winter will be minimal. Among items he felt would enhance the Island and natural area experience are:
A path with a sign pointing to the south entry and one or two similar signs north of the Island to help people find their way,
Alternative parking such as the Museum west lot until the Darrow bridge is fixed and open,
Opening the path around the south end of the lagoons from the Island to Bobolink as soon as plants are established,
Benches at the lookouts, solutions to aesthetics of the trash cans there and erosion gulleys in the gravel,
Planning re: security concerns.
Levy moved, Kenneth Newman seconded, and approved that JPAC prepare a letter to the Museum of Science and Industry asking weekend parking in its west lot for access to Wooded Island and the Japanese Garden.
Placed on discussion agenda: concern about after hours security on the Island and asking the Park District for its protocol, ideas or options that could include an arm-gate at each end like at the Golf Driving Range drive.

From minutes of the December 2016 meeting

Karen Szyjka, manager of the Japanese Garden for CPD, talked about conditions and ideas for more full realization. The latter include expanded plantings under the tree rings and of ground cover and conifers, and expansion of the moss garden. The cherry trees were pruned in a way that creates an illusion of depth. She suggests a healing-walk brochure. CPD is meeting with designers about a replacement traditional fence or wall. (not to enclose the Skylanding sculpture-- she was asked to return with a set of options when ready.

Signage and rules on Wooded Island. A paper with questions was distributed by Jackson Park Watch and summarized by Margaret Schmid. Also, handouts re: the Island with responses to various questions, concerns, and requests (some by CPD project manager Lauren Umek), and sections of the CPD Code were distributed and summarized by the JPAC President and others. Highlights of responses: McCurry had conferred with CPD leadership-- regulations are uniform across the district. Tonight’s discussion revealed that more clarity may be needed regarding future of fish stocking and fishing and whether sign language about fishing may need changing in the future. Jerry Levy noted five signs on the Island that point out its designation as the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary. [Ed.- other questions raised are considered in discussion pieces in the accompanying Dec. Newsletter.]

Jane Masterson sought more involvement of naturalists, including tree condition experts and suggested a nature subcommittee for JPAC- Julius Stanley moved the same. It was approved, but by consensus more discussion and implementation were deferred to the next meeting, with CPD experts asked to attend.

Questions raised in the Jackson Park Watch December 12 handout (not every question, here)
(Response by Gary Ossewaarde)

Park District rules and Code. The whole Code was revised a few years ago, partly to address legislation, liability concerns, duty of responsibility/accountability, uniformity (and, doubtless control). They were reviewed by Friends of the Parks and committees of PACs. Changes were made before Board adoption, but there was never complete agreement. A code of clear rules would seem to be necessary, experience shows, but could perhaps be balanced by signs with icons or wording of how people CAN enjoy their park responsibly—as signs in schools and some in parks now do.

Fishing future for the lagoons. Fishing on the Island was past practice but in modern times formally not allowed. Ideas mentioned have been to move signage for fishing at least from the bridges, or have structures at some overlooks that serve fishers but prevent trampling of shore vegetation or bothering fishing birds-- but such have not so far been considered. GLIFER prospectuses did suggest larger size and species of fish down the road, so clarification is needed. Adjacent Columbia Basin is stocked with game fish by the state, and good fishing is common in the harbors and Lake Michigan shore.

The question of dogs on the Island has been revisited often. JPAC has consistently supported no dogs, agreeing with most of the birding community and studies and in order to protect the Garden—again partly from experience with a small, irresponsible minority of dog owners. It seems highly unlikely, no matter if every park change happened, that most of the park would not be friendly to dogs on leash. In fact, JPAC has supported the idea of a dog-friendly area in the park.
There are at least five signs on and at the Island referencing the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary.

GLFER and the Restoration project

Friends of Jackson Park. An article on the GLFER project and Wooded Island was published in the South Side Weekly in late May 2016. To see suggested corrections and additions from project manager Lauren Umek click here. See the update article at

Historic Wooded Island Rises Again
From dnainfo Hyde Park November 11 2016 by Sam Cholke

Wooded Island in Jackson Park reopened last month, and there is a lot more that has changed about the historic island besides the addition of Yoko Ono's sculpture.

In mid-October, Jerry Levy, the volunteer steward for the island, showed what more than a year of the Army Corps of Engineers' $8.1 million habitat restoration has accomplished. Levy said he hopes the new "skylanding" statue by Yoko Ono on the island attracts people back to the park and that they stay to see the transformation that the island has undergone.

One of the most obvious differences is the removal of about 400 of the 1,300 trees on the island, mostly invasive box elder and mulberry trees and ashes susceptible to the emerald ash borer beetles. "See how inviting this is now?" Levy said as he walked down one of the freshly mulched paths. He pointed to how easy it now is to see the 250-year-old burr oak trees and their juniors, including a 150-year-old red oak.

Levy wandered down a path to where the rose garden was when the island first opened during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. He said it's now a prairie garden with 120,00 new plantings. "You can't see much of what we've planted. It's gotten so overgrown," Levy said, adding that he and other volunteers stilt have a lot of work to do.

Beyond the old rose garden there were still signs of where crews had hauled out the trees, though the make-shift road for the heavy machinery was turning lush and verdant again. In the spring of 2025, when the heaviest work was underway, the island looked nearly clearcut, with massive logs strewn across the island, making many worry the crews had gone too far in their removal of trees.

But Levy said he was very happy with all of the work, pointing to an oak sapling that crews had gingerly avoided. Levy said there ar 120 bur oak saplings that have sprung up on the island where squirrels buried acorns. He said the crews have preserved every single sapling, and in 300 years, they may now rival some of teh largest trees on the island.

The Army Corps of Engineers started in April 2015 on the project to restore the habitat of the island and install new paths leading to scenic overlooks. Though the heavy work of reshaping the coast of teh lagoons and removing trees is now done, there are several years of work still ahead. "The cool thing is they'll be around for another 3 1/2 years," Levy said. "They'll have crews out every day checking on the plantings and making sure they're watered."

Originally, there were worries the island wouldn't be open for five years while the plantings were established, but the Chicago Park District has allowed the island to reopen early. Levy says that means people need to be careful and stay on the paths so they won't trample the most delicate grasses and sedges that are being planted now.

He said the island will still be off limits for fishing for the foreseeable future as the reeds and water plants get established around the shore.



June 15, 2016
From Lauren Umek, the project manager for the Park District for the restoration project at Jackson Park. Jerry Levy, Wooded Island volunteer steward.

In response to concern about the loss of milkweeds at Jackson Park.

I appreciate the concern about monarch habitat and would like ta want to assure everyone that the Chicago Park District and the Army Corps of Engineers are committed to supporting, and improving habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. As you recall, one of the most important goals of ecological restoration is to improve habitat and ecosystem functioning in and around the Great Lakes. In practice, this includes removing invasive species and adding a diversity of plant species that support a range and diversity of wildlife, including pollinators.

In the coming months, contractors will begin installing native plants that include five different species of milkweed (swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, long-leaf milkweed, purple milkweed, and whorled milkweed) that provide food for monarch caterpillars as well as other host plant species such as Black-eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Pussytoes, Verbena, and six species of Asters that support additional species of butterfly caterpillars. The ecological restoration work on Wooded Island also includes the planting of 167 different species of flowering plants that provide food for the butterflies when they emerge as well as an additional 86 species of trees and shrubs that also support pollinators.
The photos that were shared were of common milkweed, a plant that establishes very well without seeding and can sometimes even be weedy. In fact, there is an abundance of common milkweed throughout the park. There are some areas where the contractor has thinned dominant stands of common milkweed in preparation for planting a greater diversity of species.

In addition to planting efforts that support pollinator habitat, the Natural Areas team of the Chicago Park District is working with the Field Museum to monitor monarch butterflies at several sites including Jackson Park.

June 27, 2016 Lauren Umek writes (photos connected with this report are credit Applied Ecological Services and should be posted in

Subject: Monarch Monitoring at Wooded Island Results

On Monday, we [CPD Dept. of Cultural and Natural Resources]partnered with the Field Museum Monarch team that is investigating a wide diversity of current and potential monarch butterfly habitats. They are looking at a variety of sites, with different ecological goals, land owners, public uses, and management activities to gather baseline data on current monarch habitat and to refine some preliminary hypotheses about monarch habitat in Chicago region.

Below is a brief summary of the data that they collected across the 82 (54 existing + 24 new) acres of natural area at Wooded Island, the observed the following:

Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed): 382

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed): 77

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed): 13

Total: 472

This baseline data gives us a great starting point to see how Wooded Island compares to other nature areas in the region and how this habitat changes overtime with ongoing restoration and management. As part of the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration project with the US Army Corps of Engineers, we’ll be planting more swamp milkweed, butterfly weed and will installing 3 other Asclepias species including, long-leaf milkweed, purple milkweed, and whorled milkweed. A photo of a monarch caterpillar on one of the recently planted plugs A. tuberosa (butterfly weed) is attached.

In other insect news, the contractors on site, Applied Ecological Services, have been keeping an eye out on insects (and other species) and they seem to be responding really well to the restoration efforts. Two nice photos of some particularly beautify insects are available at the link below. They are of a native bee (yes, bees can be green!) on some of the recently planted and abundantly flowering Prairie Sundrops (Oenothera pillosella), a beautiful silk moth (boot for scale), and the attached monarch caterpillar. In May, a U of C class sampled some aquatic invertebrates as well and found a number of cool organisms, including 4 species of dragonfly nymphs.

Lauren Umek
Project Manager
Department of Cultural and Natural Resources


About tree removal and policy in Jackson Park and the GLFER project. By Jerry Levy, site steward June 15, 2016

I can respond to the concern about cutting down trees in areas of Jackson Park. I did a complete inventory of all the trees on Wooded Island before the GELFER project was undertaken and I have reviewed all the trees that were planned for removal. The trees that were removed were only either dead, damaged or invasive species. Many dead trees were not removed to provide habitat for wildlife and nurture for the soil. Beginning this fall and next spring at least as many and probably more trees that were removed will be replaced by new trees chosen for their quality and natural habitat. This has all been done with the joint participation of the Park District, the Olmstead landscape restoration person from Heritage Landscapers, the Army Corp of Engineers and the contractor. I know that Lauren Umek has led several groups on tours of Wooded Island and explained this process in a much better scientific way. Jerry Levy

Fall 2015- water nearly at normal level, water and edge plants growing, birds in abundance, concrete roadway were poured and stone paths to overlooks lain. Virtually all the construction is done. Some more trees will be hand removed (onto with heavy equipment) and preparations made for the spring 2016 planting. The screening will come down. We hope the Island will be opened in spring if not before (this expectation was still true as of Jan.11. Note, the north gate is not opened due to no parking- will open in the spring.

November 9 2015 and February 8 2016 people had a chance to weigh in on changes and framework ideas on the South Parks and learn the history and work in progress.
The huge planting on Wooded Island and edges around the lagoons and Bobolink Meadow will be done in spring 2016. Noise reducing berms were installed along west side sections of Lake Shore Drive. (The white irrigation pipes including along planted sections north of Hayes Drive will be up during the duration of the project.)
Project 120 seeks to raise the $1M needed to ecologically replant edges of the Inner Harbor-- the local share must be raised by the end of September 2016 in order to take advantage of ACE federal funds.
Accessed and used so far for the total GLFER project: $5M of $13.

Jerry Levy writes: November 28: This Saturday Lauren Umek (CPD project manager of Jackson Park restoration) and I will be conducting a tour of Wooded Island which will show the tremendous progress that has been completed now. We will meet at the south parking lot at 10:00 a m. The new roadway is finished. The four outlooks on Wooded Island are now built and the crushed limestone for them and the paths leading to and from them is being completed. Last Friday the contractor completed a fairly successful burn of much of the Island. Planting of the shoreline of the Island is done and the new plants along the wet fringe are being protected from the geese with fences. This winter some additional work will be done in preparation for the new planting of trees, shrubs and plants in the spring. The fence will remain up this winter but the curtain covering the fence which is intended to protect debris and dust from escaping during construction will hopefully be removed. Hope to see you Saturday. If you have any questions feel free to call me at home. 773 955 6384. Jerry Levy. CPD volunteer steward.

The ISLAND AND LAGOONS WERE FENCED OFF MID APRIL 2015 for public safety and to expedite grading and lagoon dewatering,reconstruction, and refilling-restocking. There may be a planting day on the Island June 20.
Notice: The lead CPD project manager for the ACE habitat restoration project Lauren Umek will be present at most JPAC meetings to answer questions. 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. 2nd Mondays 7 pm.
She has given monthly public walkthroughs 4th Saturdays 10 am. Probably not. Meet at south end of the fencing, lot at 63rd/Cornell. Also bird and update tour Oct 21 5 pm. From south end.
A workday in the project area (Wooded Island, planting) is planned for October 24, Saturday, 10 am from the south end.
For an update see the August 2015 PDF JPAC Newsletter- scroll to page 3. First minnows are in and shore/lagoon plantings continue, overlook and roadway work continues.
Reports and opportunities to get information
Next informational walkthough of the Island

About Darrow Bridge

Most important is that funding for the whole has been secured. CDOT (Tanora Adams) reported at the May 8 2017 JPAC meeting. In mid-July, CMAP planning agency approved the reconstruction, which gives certainty. A public meeting will be scheduled for later 2017. Federal permitting still required. The reporting CDOT official was unable to confirm 2019 as start date. It is imporant to remember that the responsible agency for Darrow Bridge is the Illinois Department of Transportation.

MOU (MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING) BETWEEN CPD AND PROJECT 120- GLFER PART STARTS ON P. 5. (A governing document. Reflects as of June 10, 2014.)

Links to ACE documents:

MARCH 2015 UPDATE FROM THE PARK DISTRICT PROJECT MANAGER. By itself. Other updates and comments.
Outline of what's in the project.

Walk throughs. 4th Saturdays at 10 Not Oct. 24-Monthly tours of transformation of Wooded Island with CPD project manager Lauren Umek from south end lot at Hayes/Cornell. Additional walk throughs will be held 6 pm Wednesdays Oct. 21 5 pm with birding. Special walk throughs can be arranged with Ms. Umek.

Reports and opportunities to get information, updates. To turtles, amphibians and fish update May 5, 2015

Fall- water nearly at normal level, water and edge plants growing, birds in abundance, concrete roadway being poured and stone paths to overlooks lain.

UPDATE from the August 10, 2015 meeting. Lauren Umek, CPD project manager announced that she and Jerry Levy will hold the next informational walk through and planting or other work option on Wooded Island on September 5, 10 am, from the south end. Possible is an evening walk through, requested by birding groups and others.
Project work progress includes: completed slopes and removal of invasives along shores of the lagoons and Jackson Inner Harbor (although funding is not yet assigned for planting at the latter- which was suggested for a workday). Water is nearly at proper level. 160 pounds of minnows were placed in the lagoons and will be watched for survival and growth. Stocking with larger fish awaits establishment of the lagoon and shore plants-- 90,000 plants and lots of seeds are in. At work is a daily crew of 15, several from the city’s Green Corps. Crushed limestone gravel for the roadway and paths to the overlooks is installed, but there was a delay in getting the right color (Olmsted palette) pavers for the overlooks themselves. The concrete roadway will be the last of the heavy work and must precede even partial opening of the Island. People have requested some kind of access to the Japanese Garden as soon as possible—it is opened to guided tours only, when safe to do so. Jerry Levy pointed out that the mulched side trails in the interior need to be reconstituted in coordination with the fall burn and getting ready for heavy planting.

From the May 2015 meeting. Wooded Island update. Lauren Umek, CPD project manager reported an excellent annual Bird Count with Department of Natural Resources and Audubon. This was able to proceed despite Island closure and work. The numbers and species of birds and turtles is large. Members asked that the bird count be available online. The deteriorated road was demolished and will soon be replaced. Finishing structural work on Wooded Island and the lagoons- including turtle and fish habitat- is top priority, to be completed if possible by the end of summer. Re-opening date depends on completion of shore work and the road, and weather. Planting starts in the next few weeks-- Nurseries in Wisconsin and Kansas are growing many thousands of plants. A major community planting day will occur June 27 including trees and shrubs. Fences and signage are meant to be taken seriously--all are asked to stay out of the lagoons, which have dangerous drop-offs, uneven bottoms, and unstable sand. Grading is essentially done and the water is being allowed to rise naturally to its level. Bobolink shore work was still in progress. Norm Bell discussed possible shore plant relocations and new plantings. Umek has met with local groups including the U of C Service League and has led informational walk throughs, including a “Jane’s Walk” (co-host CPD parks historian Julia Bachrach) that drew over 50 participants. The next Island walk through will be on May 30 10 am from the south bridge. Umek gave JPAC detailed drawings and samples of the fence signs.
Army Corps site for the project:
In other nature news, beavers are back; the situation will be monitored to see if any action should be taken.

Jerry Levy wrote April 28: For authoritative and detailed information about the current project on wooded Island see the column in the Hyde Park Herald tomorrow (April 29 2014). (The article by Jeff Bishku-Aykul says that the contractor does have authorization to keep the Island closes as necessary for up to 5 years but that both the park district spokesperson and manager for the contractor Applied Ecological Services Josh LaPointe told Bishku-Aykul that would be unlikely unless something happens like persons damaging/destroying new plantings etc. More likely the Island will reopen to pedestrians fall 2015, LaPointe is quoted: "That's the hope. That's teh plan. I don't know that we'll have the fence still up, and we'll have the gates open... It's going to be awesome out there, so we want people to get out there and enjoy it."

Also Lauren Umek the CPD project manager has said that she is willing to schedule another tour of the Island to discuss and show what is happening. Please let me know if you are interested. We hope to have a workday on WI sometime in late May or June to plant new trees and shrubs. Will keep you posted. Jerry Levy Wooded Island steward said.

The lead CPD project manager for the ACE habitat restoration project Lauren Umek will be present at most JPAC meetings to answer questions. 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. 2nd Mondays 7 pm.

Report from Wooded Island Steward Jerry Levy, March 3, 2015

Greetings Wooded Island Working Group:

This winter has seen a very substantial amount of work on Wooded Island. The long range plan is very promising, and I am looking forward to watching it unfold in its entirety. I have the luxury of having been continuously informed by Lauren Umek the Chicago Park District project manager overseeing the work being done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and their contractors. Here is some information about what has been done and the plan for the next few years.

The USACE’s planned and scheduled tree removals on Wooded Island have been completed. There are still a few trunks and wood pilings that are being removed in phases.

If you visit the site you will see a very substantial change to the landscape. The open spaces will soon begin filling in as the shrubs, plants and grasses begin to emerge and the trees begin to bud and leaf out this spring.

This first stage of the work on Wooded Island concentrated on removing damaged, invasive, and non-native, trees and Woody shrubs and cutting down herbaceous plants and grasses to increase light available for smaller Oaks, and other important native plants. The next phase will be to allow nature to take its course this spring and summer and to observe the species of shrubs and plants that will emerge from the existing plants and seed beds in the various eco systems on Wooded Island. The result will help refine how the scheduled plantings will be further enhanced and developed.

This summer will see a complete rebuilding of the roadway on Wooded Island and the construction of gravel pathways leading to four different historically referenced “lookouts” from the Island. Shoreline grading will also be carried out this spring/summer, further increasing lower shoreline zone habitats. Planting in areas around the Island (not on it) will be going on this season.

Beginning in the spring of 2016 massive plantings of native trees shrubs and plants will begin on the Island.

We will have our normal workdays on the 4th Saturday of each month, as usual, beginning this March, weather permitting. I hope the weather will cooperate and the promise that spring brings will be evident. Look forward to seeing everyone.

March 15:
For all those who love Wooded Island, and no one loves it more than I, rest assured that the project that is underway will result in a phenomenally beautiful and user-friendly Olmsted restored park.
Sometimes the devil is in the details. In this case the beauty is in the details contained in the voluminous plans and specifications for this restoration. It should be comforting to know that, along with the Army
Corps of Engineers, the Chicago Park District, and the ecologically experienced landscape contractor, there is another important leader and planner of this project: Patricia O'Donnell is a landscape designer who is very well known in the restoration of Olmsted's parks. All of the details of this project pass through her. Be patient. Think of how a house looks when a major restoration has just begun. If anyone is interested in having a guided tour through Wooded Island in the next couple of weeks or getting details of the restoration, feel free to reply. The island will probably be close to pedestrian traffic soon.

(Guided tour/walk through can be scheduled through March 21's was well attended and informational.)

Gary Ossewaarde adds: The big thing to hold onto is that the project is not "purist" on any one set of objectives but must satisfy several--- reviving Olmsted's design vision in a way that reflects more recent understandings and experience and is sustainable, a high quality set of natural habitats that are home for lots of wildlife-- also in a sustainable manner, and reflects modern public/visitors/users expectations for a large park. Compromises are to be expected (and some mistakes?). Not all non-natives will be removed, and some non-natives will be planted. Also, despite the huge plantings in future years, the island will have a more open look and feel, at least at eye level, which may be somewhat of a loss for people like me who want to pretend we are not at all in a city when we go there, even though one could always see some high rises.

Jackson Park: An Ecological Restoration Designed in the Olmsted Style
Section 506 Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Project Update
[rec’d by JPAC March 7 2015. See this report by itself in pdf.]

There is a lot of construction activity occurring in Jackson Park that is associated with the Chicago Park District’s Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Project. Below is a brief update on the project.

The project is part of a 5-year capital improvement project to restore habitat within the natural areas of Jackson Park. The Chicago Park District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are partners in this bio-cultural endeavor that entangles ecosystem restoration and cultural landscapes. The project goals are to preserve, respect, rehabilitate and steward the historic character of the park and restore habitat through improvements to ecosystem connectivity, structure and biological diversity. This project has developed with partners from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Project 120, and Heritage Landscapes, LLC. These improvements to a park with such rich architectural, historical, cultural and ecological significance is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative process.

The construction work is occurring in phases over 5-years, starting in the area around wooded island. It will include the planting of over 400,000 trees, shrubs, vines, forbs, grasses, sedges, rushes, and ferns planted to form shoreline wetlands, meadows, oak savannas, woodlands, dunes, and sedge lawn communities through the eye of an Olmsted design. The aquatic and terrestrial improvements include the grading and stabilization of approximately 8 acres of lagoon shorelines and the reintroduction of native fish communities. Other improvements include the paving of pathways and overlooks throughout the park and the removal and management of invasive and non-native plants. In the coming months, continued work on the site will include shoreline grading and pathway work with restricted access to Wooded Island during.

More details on the Jackson Park Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Project can be found at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s website:

Prior to the start of this project, a series of community and stakeholder meetings were held to discuss the project’s goals and approaches, including regular monthly updates at the Jackson Park Advisory Council’s meetings.

If you have further questions regarding this project now or into the future, I encourage you to attend the JPAC meetings, which occur on the 2nd Monday of every month at 7pm in the Jackson Park Field House. Please feel free to share this update with others who may be interested in this project.

Thank you,
Lauren Umek

More reports and comments

Jerry Levy, site steward in Good Neighbors, May 5 2015

There seems to be a misunderstanding of some as to what is taking place on Wooded Island. It is a fantastic project that has nothing but beneficial benefits for the environment and use of Wooded Island. The attack against the Army Corps of Engineers for the removal of “invasive” species is entirely misplaced. In the first place, it is necessary to understand that “invasive,” as it is used to determine what plants and trees are to be removed, does not mean “non-native.” The definition of “invasive” for this purpose means a non-native species whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. The fact of a species being non-native or alien in itself does not make it “invasive.” There is virtually unanimous support among the scientific community for the removal of such invasive plants and trees.

The determination of what plants and tree were to be removed was not that of the Army Corps of Engineers. The initial decision was that of Patricia O’Donnell, the landscape designer who has successfully restored a number of other Frederic Olmsted’s parks. She collaborated with and continues to collaborate with the Chicago Park District, the general contractor and the Army Corps in the restoration process.

While the benefits to the various ecosystems on the Island may not be immediately apparent, they will start to become evident soon. The long range outlook for the successful restoration of Wooded Island is astonishing and will benefit everyone. The nurture of the lagoons and shorelines around the lagoons is being directed by Frank Vertuci of the Army Corps. He is eminently qualified for this job. It will not only considerably improve the quality of the water but will benefit all the aquatic life and the birds and animals there. In the meantime there is a need for patience. While the work is in progress, the Island needs to be secured. As it has been disclosed, it is the target of the contractor and the Park District to open the Island as soon as possible, even as soon as this summer.

Jerry Levy, Wooded Island Steward

Comment by Jane Masterson on Good Neighbors blog re turtles and frogs. May 6, 2015

I called The Urban Wildlife Institute and the biologist I talked to said that the turtles who are sitting in the middle of a mud flat would be much more likely to be killed by predators than turtles that are hiding in their normal habitat. He said that during the similar restoration project in Lincoln Park the turtles were trapped and moved to other areas. Perhaps since the Columbia Basin lagoon and inner harbor still have water the turtles could be moved there. Possibly even be trapped again and moved back after then work is done. There is also the possibility that buried turtles will be killed when the lagoons are dredged. I plan to call the Army Corps of Engineers tomorrow. Maybe they’ve already planned how to save the turtles.
The lagoons aren’t as dry after yesterday’s rain. The workers near the music bridge (near the tennis court entrance of bobolink meadow) said there will be spots that won’t be drained.
They said the area right off the bridge was 3 feet deep. I said “How do you know?” They said we tried to walk through it. Unclear how safe these areas will be when they dredge the lagoon. The Urban Wildlife Institute biologist said the frogs would survive if there was some water left

Editor: queries for more detail on this issue, degree of disturbance in present phase, and how quickly water will be raised are being addressed to the Army Corps.
Persons noted that migratory species numbers and shore birds are up (the latter temporary because of low water level?). Some birders would prefer the decisions were made by bird naturalist organizations.

Addendum answers from Jerry regarding work first week of May 2015
"According to the contractor no more water is being pumped out of the lagoons. Their plan is to allow the water to gradually come back. If there is a need for more water to fill the lagoons sometime this summer they will open valves where the water is held back to allow water in from the lake. The fish will not be introduced until the habitat has been established. I have not heard of a time table for this". Jerry Levy. Ms. Masterson and other observers reported turtle etc. and fish habitat and structures being installed and lots of turtles and herons. Birding has been good on the island.

Here are answers to questions on current and planned work in relation to reptiles and fish. From Frank Veraldi of the Army Corps via Jerry Levy.

The following information was provided today by Frank Veraldi the Army Corps person in charge of the aquatic phase of the work on the lagoons at Wooded Island


Regarding turtles - Turtle habitat is being installed today. About 25 to 40 large trees are being placed to provide basking and hunting habitat. The ponds are also slowly filling up. Many types of natural wetlands dry out as well. Some turtles require this to happen for survival and reproduction.

The two turtle species identified from the lagoons today are Red Ear Slider and Snapping Turtle. Snapping turtles climb steep banks and bluffs to dig holes and lay their eggs where it is dry, so they would have no problem climbing the bank and going to Lake Michigan, which is 20 feet away, if they need more water that is.

Reptile and amphibian activities are coordinated with the Illinois Natural History Survey.

We are also introducing 3 species of freshwater mussels to the Jackson Lagoons once the habitat is restored, which will provide high quality food for juvenile turtles. This work will be performed by the Illinois Natural History Survey. We also may introduce Eastern Newts, since the habitat restored for them at Jackson Park is what they like and it is within their native range. Here is the current list of native, indicative coastal pond species that will be introduced into Jackson Lagoons once the habitat is restored:


Pyganodon grandis Giant Floater
Utterbackia imbecillis Paper Pondshell
Lampsilis siliquoidea Fatmucket
Toxolasma parvus Lilliput


Amia calva Bowfin
Notemigonus crysoleucas Golden Shiner
Pimephales promelas Fathead Minnow
Cyprinella spiloptera Spotfin Shiner
Notropis heterodon Blackchin Shiner
Erimyzon sucetta Lake Chubsucker
Noturus gyrinus Tadpole Madtom
Esox americanus Grass Pickerel
Esox lucius Northern Pike
Umbra limi Central Mudminnow
Fundulus diaphanus Banded Killifish
Pomoxis nigromaculatus Black Crappie
Lepomis gibbosus Pumpkinseed
Lepomis gulosus Warmouth
Etheostoma exile Iowa darter
Etheostoma nigrum Johnny darter


Notophthalmus viridescens eastern newt



Project and contract.

The contract for Project 506 was awarded to Applied Ecological Services. Jerry Levy writes "Looks like that company is well suited to emphasize the importance of the ecological issues." Total maximum dollars available (not necessarily all to be spent) and to be allocated in 4 phases- $12,375,000: $8,043,750 from federal and $4, 301,250 from the local partner Chicago Park District and private.

In early February 2015 a wooden bridge was build to the south end of the Island for equipment and the lagoons were lowered for the dish removal and shore resculpturing. By end of the third week extensive removal of invasive overgrowth trees and an understory was done particularly in the southern part of the Island, the beginning stage of habitat restoration. Meanwhile, the extreme cold killed off the monoculture fish in the lagoons making any applications unnecessary.

From the December 8 2014 JPAC meeting. Reported by Lauren Umek of CPD:
Work on Wooded Island starts the next week (c. Dec. 15). The South Bridge to the Island will be fenced off. The North (Hays) bridge will remain open as well as access to Osaka Garden. Most of the Island will be fenced off. This m ay move as the work progresses. In this budget cycle only the Island and nearby will be replanted. No closure is planned for bobolink meadow although shore work is planned for later.


Corps ready- Army Corps to begin Jackson Park project - Herald in article by Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul November 19 2014

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' restoration of Jackson Park could be well underway by next month. The 139-acres, five-year restoration of native habitats will kick off with invasive tree removal on the north end of the park and the replacement of fish in the Jackson Park lagoon, which is likely to be done by this December according to USACE ecosystem planner Frank Veraldi.

"It sounds like everything's going pretty good right now, so I think we'll have the fish stuff done probably by December," Veraldi said. To replace the fish the Jackson Park lagoon will be drained about a foot by pumping water out into Lake Michigan faster than usual, according to Veraldi. One drained, the lagoon will be poisoned using rotenone, a mildly toxic pesticide that kills fish. A couple of days later, after removing the fish, the lagoon's water wil be restored to its natural level. "Even if poison did get into Lake Michigan it wouldn't do anything because it would get so diluted," said Veraldi, who added that rotenone would not get pumped into the pond at Osaka Garden. The lagoon will also be drained of about a foot for a week or two to perform contour work around its edges.

Jackson Park's restoration will take place in four phases of priority, starting on the park's northern half and ending in the vicinity of La Rabida Children's Hospital, 6501 S. Promontory Drive. The project will cost $12.4 million in total , with the first phase costing $4.5 million.

In addition to lagoon work, the first phase of Jackson Park's restoration will include invasive tree removal on the northern half of Jackson Park. Root wads and trunks from around 80 tress will be placed in the lagoon, offering a source of food and protection for fish, according to Veraldi, who said they will also give birds a place to perch and turtles an area to bask in.

West Dundee, Ill-based contractor Applied Ecological Services will have until March 1, the beginning of the bird migration season, to remove trees. Wooded Island work day volunteers have prepared by identifying around 250 bur oak saplings and fencing off most of them, according to steward Jerry Levy. At the last workday, "we actually put red flags on the top of them, so somebody will be aware that this needs to be protected," Levy sid.

A more detailed timeline for Jackson Park's restoration was discussed in a Thursday meeting with Applied Ecological Services but is not yet final, according to Veraldi.

Report from Hyde Park Herald, by Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul, online October 4, 2014

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awards contract for Jackson Park restoration.

Staff Writer

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has awarded a contract for its 139-acre, five-year restoration of native habitats in Jackson Park.

The USACE has chosen West Dundee, Ill.-based Applied Ecological Services (AES) to restore Jackson Park according to its plans. So far, it has awarded AES a $4 million base contract for work on the park’s north half and invasive tree removal throughout. The project’s more than 70 additional planned improvements — such as plantings — will be made gradually “as they make sense,” according to USACE ecosystem planner Frank Veraldi.

“And we can do that up to about a point of 12 million, once we hit that ceiling,” Veraldi said.

In total, the project will have access to $12,375,000 in funds, with a 65 percent coming from the federal government’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the rest from the project’s non-federal sponsor, the Chicago Park District (CPD). Project 120, a non-profit organization seeking to fund a $10 million visitor’s center to the park, will be contributing $700,000 to CPD’s share.

The USACE’s restoration has been divided into four areas of priority, beginning on its north end, including the East and West lagoons, followed by the Jackson Park Harbor, golf course and the peninsula La Rabida Children’s Hospital sits on.

Veraldi said the restoration project is likely to have at least one subcontractor, and that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would likely perform the planned poisoning and removal of fish from the Jackson Park lagoon.

The USACE project was advertised to contractors as costing between 5- and 10-million dollars. Several companies attended a pre-bid meeting in September, according to Veraldi, but only two companies submitted a bid for the project: AES and Pizzo and Associates. After reviewing their qualifications, he said, USACE picked the company with the lowest bid.

The Jackson Park restoration will involve grading, demolition and invasive species removal in its first year, followed by a focus on planting in the last four years, Veraldi said. He said he doesn’t yet know when work will begin, although he expects it will be in late winter and hopes all tree and fish removal will be done by February.

“If they get out there in late fall that’d be a miracle,” Veraldi said.


Media reports have picked out the fish elimination in the lagoons in the project a main activity of interest. A natural poison that decays within a few days and only affects gill-breathers will be used. This will be applied after the migratory birds including herons have left. this is said by experts t be the most efficient way to prepare restoration of the lagoons bottom and water including prevention of erosion into them. Fishing will certainly be slight in the lagoons until the new species have been established.
Winter 2013-14 saw severe fish kill in the lagoons, as is common in hard-freeze winters, so only 1 or two species were left, species that prevented a goo water and plant community for a lively aquatic community. SEE THE ARMY COPR'S FAQS SHEET ON THE MATTER, BELOW or click and go to

The May 7 2014 meeting on the USACE Fish and Ecosystem Restoration Project saw excellent presentation and lots of questions. The conversation continued Monday May 12, and August 11 and there were various more stakeholder meetings before and after approvals and entry into the design phase for work (set to start early fall or else well into winter 2014 to avoid bird migratory season).

: See there where to submit comments (now formally closed), or to, Peter Bullock, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 231 S. LaSalle St. 1500, Chicago, IL 60604. PARTS OF THE PLAN WERE ALTERED BEFORE THE CONTRACT FOR RFP ISSUANCE WAS APPROVED BY THE CPD BOARD AUGUST 13.

THIS IS AND WILL BE THE OFFICIAL SITE FOR ALL UPDATES (expected to include the FAQs mentioned below):
(the specifications themselves are about 400 pages so browse before downloading)- To August 11 update.
FAQs on the Lagoons and fish treatment. (Embedded also here, below with the reference-links live)

( This may be put up by ACE in the official website (above) and we hope to put it up in

The project is for habitat restoration and improvements in limited sectors of the park: (Note, this plan was introduced to JPAC as a possible project in May 2013, with a charette in June, vetted at a stakeholders meeting (including naturalist groups) at Friends of the Parks November 18, 2013. At suggestion there, a leading Olmsted landscape and botanist expert was sought (Project 120 paying that cost). As a result, the project is being overseen by Patricia O'Donnell principal of of Heritage Landscapes (highly recommended by experts out of 2 choices). O'Donnell's guide is the 1895 Olmsted & Sons template. As a result of review by O'Donnell and Park District historic and naturalist experts, the project has nearly been finalized and follows and restores the Olmsted template (plan). Meanwhile, USACE determined from feasibility study that a project should be done and planning and contract with CPD put under negotiation (ACE /Fish and Wildlife Service to fund about 2/3 and local partner CPD one third (a large portion of that was raised privately by Project 120 led by Robert Karr.

Please see below the detailed report of USACE and CPD presentations on the project at JPAC meetings May and June 2013. The latter included a well-attended public charette on dos and don'ts. At the conclusion of the May 2013 presentation, Jackson Park Advisory Council gave approval in principle to proceed with planning.

The Feasibility Study that followed was a survey and comparison review of benefits, effects, costs of doing a project or not doing one and particular subprojects-- in effect an environmental impact study as well as cost-benefit analysis, and whether there is a project fit for the Army Corps (and its local partner, Chicago Park District). ACE concluded 4 of 5 possible bundling's or increments are worth doing, and set up a public comment period.
At the end of that it concluded to proceed to contract with CPD to put out RFP--The intergovernmental agreement to be made and approved by CPD board and RFP put and a contract bid and let out by September 30, 2014. ACE would pay about $10 M. Chicago Park District would pay c35% of the cost. By the time of CPD approval, additional $500,000 private money was found to do the whole possible project (5 out of 5) and some acreage was traded in and out of the project and Project 120 found funding of $700,000 to match $700,000 in CPD bonds toward the CPD share of $1,900,o00 with the whole project costing $8.1 M. The project will be in operation about 5 years, during which Ms. O'Donnell will make at least three on site visits for evaluations and recommendations. The project will be one under the general contractor and the Corps; the CPD supervisor was said to be Lauren Umek.

There are 5 aspects to the project (see in the reports on May and June 2013 presentations by ACE and CPD to Jackson Park Advisory Council.) Work would (at that point) be done in 155 of the park's 543 acres--that may have changed, mainly in and on the edges of the lagoons and parts of Wooded Island esp. sw, in edge-parts of the golf course, and along certain overgrown roads and paths, such as Marquette. Restoration of native fish and of fishing, as a part of the Great Lakes is a major component--Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the bucket much of the money comes from, so the lagoons will have a separator preventing the game fish stocked in the Columbia Basin (when grown) from getting into the lagoons-- there the monoculture present fish would be killed, the bottom and water quality restored, and native fish stocked.

THE PROJECT WAS OPENED FOR A 30 DAY PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD WHICH ENDED MAY 12, 2014. A public meeting (recommenced but not required) was set up and held at the end of the period. before the deadline.
Contacts for information or comment were (and still should be): Peter Bullock (USACE) at 312 846-5587 or, or by US Mail to Peter Bullock, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 231 S. LaSalle St., suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60604.
Spokesperson and botanist is Frank Veraldi of ACE.

There is an article in the April 23 2014 Hyde Park Herald by Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul
( Despite the captioned picture of the Japanese Garden, the latter is OFF LIMITS to the project as is anything related to the Lake Michigan shoreline (the shoreline is in a separate bucket, not going anywhere at present), sports fields, and the former Nike base that largely coincides with the Bobolink Meadow and the Golf Driving Range. There is reference in the article to the (extremely worrisome) Asian Carp: there is no known presence of Asian Carp in Jackson Park or the Great Lakes as of this writing. There are invasive fish species including other species of carp in the Jackson Park system, along with annually-planted game fish.
Olmsted v. natural/native. Although Mr. Karr of Project 120 is quoted on aspects of the plan, especially the importance of maintaining the Olmsted character of the park as well as habitat restoration consistent with it, and that his concerns were alleviated, this is not his or Project 120's project (and there is a demarcation at the path in back of the Music Court lagoon shore). Project is paying for the Olmsted expert, Ms. O'Donnell overseeing the project and raising a substantial part of the park district local share. The article does a good job of distinguishing the limits that the Olmsted template place on restoring even parts of Jackson Park to their fully native /original (however that's defined) habitat. Besides Ms. O'Donnell, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency was required to review the plan and passed on it. [Gary Ossewaarde]

Chronology, reports and plan evolution.
(Small meetings were held with the Park District and Army Corps looking towards a community meeting. This round would be repeated throughout the period leading to CPD board approval.)

From minutes of the May 13, 2013 JPAC meeting:

Presentation: Mitchell Murdock of Chicago Park District Natural Resources, Julia Bachrach of CPD planning/history, and a representative of the US Army Corps of Engineering presented and sought input on the early stages of planning of historic, landscape, and sound ecological and habitat planning and restoration improvements in the park, designated Section 506 Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER). The CPD and ACE have partially-overlapping but somewhat different mandates, and they are evaluating, with public input, whether there will be a partnered set of projects for the park that could cost up to $10 million. (Note any Lakeshore work is excluded as that is controlled by a separate federally-designated ongoing program for the entire lakeshore.) Principles were set forth, with the park district stressing the historic integrity of the park including Olmsted's vision of vistas, elegant but concealed design, stress on relaxation and enjoyment of the sublime and beautiful—the genius of the place, subordination of details to the whole, avoidance of mere novelty, grouping of plants including an abundant understory and layering, tempered by good habitat in the appropriate/ designated parts of the park. Noted was that Olmsted’s park designs were quite open. The Army Corp stresses ecology including sound lagoon management and habitat. The review of the history and changes in the park over the decades and the distinct types of habitat and landscape in the park was especially helpful. The Olmsted Center has expressed an interest in providing technical advice.

The next opportunity for public input will be at the next meeting, including a mapping exercise and discussion of specific areas or vistas people would like to see restored or enhanced. This will still be ahead of the start of official feasibility and project-discovery exploration. Ongoing public input is promised early and during the entire development and implementation of the project, should one be approved.
Dwight Powell moved, 2nd Esther Schechter and approved for the Park District and Army Corps to continue exploration and planning toward a Section 506 project.

From minutes of the June 10 2013 JPAC meeting:

Park improvement potential planning/project. Mitchell Murdock, Park District Natural Areas Manager, and Julia Bachrach, Park District Planner and historian gave an update and sought more input on a potential Park District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project under Federal designation 506. It is still in exploration as to whether there is a project (a federal interest or FID); work would not begin for 3-5 years. Any work includes 5 years of warranty/maintenance. The parties want to ensure public input from the onset about the park and particularly any restorations or enhancements to habitat (the ACE interest) and or landscape and historic views and features. If the project lacks public support, it would disappear, and no ACE funding would mean no project by the Park District. Large areas of the park are under consideration, but anything recreational, institutional, or along the lakeshore is excluded. The parties are concerned that any other projects such as cherry tree plantings mesh with this and be park-suitable. They are especially interested in where shrubbery could be expanded or replaced, the presence and health of particular kinds of habitat where called for, and with the lagoons, including maybe recreating islands that used to be there. Presenters will meet next with fishers.

Attendees gave insights and concerns on particular places and changes that might be sound or avoided. They gathered around and wrote ideas on a large map-- noting sections of the park they thought degraded or unattended, or that they especially liked and wanted to make sure are preserved. Examples:

-Improve landscaping and maintenance between the outer and inner harbors north of Marquette Drive;
-Improve along Marquette Drive Coast Guard to Cornell drives and north on Cornell (excepting the already kept up Growing Power garden)- including fixing or providing trails/walks and plant more trees;
-Between Cornell Dive and the West Lagoon—have more shrubbery etc. to reduce noise and roadway/city views; improve vistas and habitat without creating unwanted hiding places;
-Improve around the north bridge to Wooded Island (some were leery of too much work here);
-Be careful about large areas of monocultures especially of ornamental trees;
-Maybe create a few small openings to the Island lagoon edge to create optimal vista points (some opposed this-said people have vistas at the Japanese Garden);
-Ensure any reconstructed islands in the lagoon can be sustained and provide optimal habitat for frogs, turtles and other amphibians and that netting for plant establishment not damage birds; ditto lagoon shore plantings;
-Consider the needs of birds and other wildlife and lean towards more vegetation rather than less.

Spring 2014:

Army Corps eyes Jackson Park. April 23, 2014. by Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul

The U.S. Army Cops of Engineers (USACE) has released a feasibility study for a 30-day public review for proposed restorations of Jackson Park.

The study is the culmination of discussions between the USACE and the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC), Chicago Park District and Project 120, a non-profit developing plans for $10 million music pavilion in ht park. It review the benefits, effects and costs of restoring the park's native fish, plants and bird habitats.

USACE's report examines five ways of restoring 155 acres of the 543-acre park--as well as the result of taking no action-- and recommends the most cost-effective option. If approved, 35 percent of the funds would come from the Chicago Park District and the rest from the federal government's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

"If there's any significant agency or public comments that we have to change the plan, we would go ahead and incorporate those into the document," said Frank Veraldi, ecosystem planner for the USACE Chicago District. Neither the USACE nor the Chicago Park District is required to hold a public meeting, but the Army Corps has recommended it, said Veraldi.

Although the USACE has analyzed the cost of various plans, the feasibility study contains no dollar amount for restoring the park.

"They're always blacked out at this point because we don't want to provide contractors who are going to bid on the contract any advantage yet," Veraldi said. He said in January that USACE's planned restoration is eligible for up to $10 million in federal funding if it's approved by this September.

JPAC met with the USACE and Chicago Park District to discuss its vision for the park's restoration twice, said council president Louise McCurry.

The restoration would benefit the area in several ways, according to McCurry, including exposing city children to a native habitat and restoring its original fish population. First introduced to the U.S. in the 1970s, Asian carp are an invasive present in the park's lagoon [sic, there are not Asian carp in the lagoon, but other carp that degrade the habitat and fish population; McCurry says she did not say "Asian" carp].

"Non-native species take over an area and destroy it," McCurry said. "Non-native species just grow very quickly and die and disappear and don't help the ecology at all." Bringing back native fish, she added "wil make it a great recreational area for those fishing clubs that are still there."

Although teh USACE's restoration focuses on replacing invasive species with native ones, it also took into account architect Frederick Law Olmsted's original plans for the park first developed in the late 19th century.

A full fledged restoration of the park to its natural habitat would be impossible without compromising Olmsted's plans because they included non-native plants, Veraldi said. But USACE's plans have been guided in part by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Project 120 hire Patricia O'Donnell, a Vermont-based architect who has helped to preserve several Olmsted parks.

"Our concerns have been alleviated because of the integration of the Olmsted expert into the process," Project 120 President Bob Karr said.

Karr said he was originally concerned about the restoration's impact on what he calls the park's "Olmsted character." Previous alterations to the park's original designs include a Cold War-era NIK anti-aircraft missile site.

"If we didn't do it this way, and we approached it solely from a natural habitat restoration process, we could potentially lose the Olmsted character in the park," Karr said.

[gives the project USACE site and contact.]


Army Corps presents plans. May 14, 2014. By Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul

Key details about the cost and funding of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) planned restoration of Jackson Park were shared in a public meeting last week.

Community members met with representatives for the USACE and Chicago Park District (CPD) last Tuesday to hear about and discuss their five-year, federally-funded 155-acre introduction of native species and plants. USACE ecosystem planner Frank Veraldi gave an overview of the Corps' feasibility study and proposed restoration. The plan is anticipated for approval by the USACE's Great Lakes and Ohio River Division later this month.

Sixty-five percent of the restoration is being funded by the federal government's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The rest of the funds wil be provided by the project's non-federal sponsor, the CPD. The will come from several sources, according to district Project Manager Michael Lange including Project 120, a privately-funded non-profit seeking to install a $10 million performance pavilion and visitors' center behind the Columbia Basin.

Part of it will be privately raised through Project 120," Lange said, adding that the other funds will come from the CPD as well as federal credit based on the project area's land value. "Those exact numbers and details are not quite totally certain yet."

"The total project value is estimated anywhere between 5 and 10 million dollars," Lange added.

"Were committed to assisting as necessary to help CPD make the match," Project 120 President Bob Karr said in an interview the next day.

Although Karr did not want to compromise contractor bidding by sharing numbers, he added that Project 120 was in a public-private partnership with CPD and that "we are fundraising to help the park district achieve its goal."

The USACE anticipates the COD will sign a project partnership agreement this July and that a contract for its restoration wil be awarded in September.


Jackson Park Reimagined: Old is new again as expert reapplies Olmsted to Jackson Park
May 21, 2014.
By Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul

Nearly 40 people packed into the Hyde Park Historical Society, 5529 S. Lake Park Ave., last Monday evening for the first neighborhood appearance by a landscape architect who may shape Jackson Park for years to come.

Vermont-based archi tech Patricia O'Donnell was picked earlier this year by privately-funded Project 120 to help restore designer Frederick Olmsted's original influence on the prk--including a music pavilion behind the Columbia Basin--and funding part of a 155-acre restoration of its natural habitats by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"What Bob Karr asked me to do from the beginning is "Think big picture. Don't only restrict yourself to the Corps,'" O'Donnell said.

Although Project 120 President was advertised as the main speaker at Monday's event, Patricia O'Donnell gave the feature presentation, describing her previous work and a vision for parks as a shared, democratic space.

During her career, O'Donnell has completed hundreds of landscape projects. More than 50 have been on spaces designed by Olmsted, such as the U.S. Capitol Grounds.

"One of the things that's really important about a landscape is understanding its character and its spaces, O'Donnell said.

Olmsted's 1895 revised plan for Jackson Park revolves around its fields, lagoons and the lake, according to O'Donnell, but over time, access to these elements have been compromised by facilities, roads and parking lots.

"So if those are the three key elemens of the park, and you're supposed to be able to get to them and you're supposed to be able to see them and experience them from various places, we have a very much diminished quality of place," O'Donnell said. "So what we're looking at is how that can be rebalanced."

O'Donnell also said that there's less tree canopy now at Jackson Park than there once was, and that 3 to 5 percent of the park's total tree count would have to be planted every year to make up for this.

This summer, O'Donnell will provide input on the design of the USACE's restoration by helping to determine its acreage, topography and plantings to maintain Olmsted's influence on the park.

"So the process we're at right now is working together to develop a shared language that integrates the nature side and the Olmsted side," O'Donnell said, adding that whereas the corps emphasizes bird habitats, savannah and meadow she wants to highlight open space, flowers and low-lying plants.

Asked about the role of Project 12's planned pavilion in the park O'Donnell said, "This park today doesn't have any strong destinations," adding that its current draws are the Museum of Science and Industry and sports.

O'Donnell also made the case for several long term, major developments: establishing a conservancy for the park, improving its degraded and truncated pathways and abolishing the golf driving range next to the Bobolink Meadow.

"It may take years. I'm just the person trying to hold it up and say this is the space for everyone, we need to reopen it," O'Donnell said. "That's the core space. Let's not give it over to golf."

Intro announcement from the September 2014 JPAC Newsletter and from minutes of the August 11 2014 JPAC meeting

August 13, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approved a contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers for $8.1 million in habitat work in Jackson Park, to be put out for RFP. The majority of this 5-year project is federally funded, the remainder by the Chicago Park District ($700K in bonds, $700K private grant from Project 120 through Robert Karr, $500K other private, and credit value of improved park acreage). The Jackson Park Section 506 Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Initiative was increased to the full preliminary scope (adding lagoon islands, Outer Harbor work) and otherwise modifying the acreage, after the update given at the Aug. 11 JPAC meeting. The final Solicitation (bid) document will be shared with JPAC. JPAC will work with project partners to ensure full and proper oversight. MORE

US Army Corp of Engineers presentation of updated plans—August 11, 2014 JPAC Meeting.
USACE ecologist and planner Frank Veraldi and Chicago Park District Dept. of Natural Resources ecologist Lauren Umek.
Jackson Park Section 506 Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Project.

The ACE focus is to restore habitat-- aquatic, pond, edge, sedge meadow, and woodland and the Great Lakes wildlife (including fish) of these habitat types. The Park District focus is Olmsted’s landscape vision and vistas. The areas of the park where work is to be done are arranged in four time phases over five years- 1- (first) in and around the lagoons and Wooded Island, 2- the inner harbor (aka South Lagoon), 3- parts of the golf course, 4- certain Outer Harbor edges and south edges of the park. The plans, which were still in progress, will have much greater detail and specification than is usual in such projects in order to make sure the grading, plant palette, paths and overlooks are right and true to the mandates for both habitat and this Olmsted park.

At least some of the work will be disruptive—for example, as some of the first work (after fall bird migration), the lagoons will be separated (with a mesh) from the Columbia Basin (where game fish are stocked yearly). Now, runaway species destroy the lagoon bottoms, and plants, and water quality and prevent establishment of fish species that are both native to this Great Lakes habitat and desired by fishers. After fall bird migration, certain fish will be killed quickly and the lagoons cleaned. Fishing success will recover slowly as water quality and bottoms are improved, spawning holes and structures are installed, the lagoons stocked in stages with a diversity of native fish and the latter mature and adjust. Edges will be re-graded and planted. About 12 viewing/fishing outlooks over the lagoons will be made at historic or strategic spots, with chipped wood side paths or bow-outs to reach them. The fishing pier at 63rd and Cornell will be remade (Fishing and birding groups have been consulted.)

Work will be staged to avoid interfering with migratory bird arrivals and seasons, and as much as possible of the heavy work will be done in winter to avoid soil compaction. Where possible, grading will include berms to reduce the noise to the lagoons that can disturb birds. But in some places where that has been called desirable such as along Cornell Drive there is little room. Trees and shrubs will be used to have a calming effect.

Work in other sectors will also introduce new plant communities and wildlife—marsh including reeds along, for example some of the inner harbor shores, a rough-grass hummock in the golf course turned into a sedge meadow, ponds that mudpuppies (salamander-like) will use, and some grass turf replanted to sedges that foster wildlife.

Wooded areas will be re-balanced so there can be plants of varied heights and both sun-loving and shade-tolerant low and ground plants. Some areas are overgrown and need a fair amount of removal and replanting. Parts of Wooded Island will have about 25% changeover, including removal of trees trying to grow under oaks and so won’t live long. Much of the new material will be shrubs and ground plants designed and staged so birds will have more forage, shelter. Trees will take time to grow. Attention is given to mixing and balancing the plants— botany that fits while respecting Olmsted’s look, but not over-dense, and making sure each season has interesting things to see. Questions were asked and answered; conversation and refinement will continue.


Outline of what's in the project- From the introduction to the RFP (Solicitation for bids) (subject to slight modification late August)

PROJECT INFORMATION: Environmental restorations under this project are primarily natural zones that are not utilized by the general public, and are adversely affected by non-native and invasive weedy plant species. The degraded shoreline along segments of the west and south lagoons will be graded to allow for gradual, 2-dimensional slopes to the upland areas and in accordance with the Frederick Law Olmsted historic design of the park. There will be other minor grading around the project site to establish wetland/marsh and sedge meadow habitats. Excess soil material from the grading work will be placed along the eastern and/or western project boundary to dampen vehicular noise from Lake Shore Dr. Lake. Pond & marsh, sedge meadow, and oak savanna & open woodland communities will be restored in these areas via removal of invasive plant species and the planting of native plant species. The East and West Lagoons would also be separated from the Columbia Basin via "fish fence" to prevent large game fishes from entering the lagoon system from the Columbia Basin. There would also be eradication of common carp and other rough fishes from the East and West Lagoons.
The goal of this project is to provide critical wetland habitat that would contribute to the restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

More detail based on presentation to the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners for contract approval August 13, 2014
What/ where: Pond habitat including the east and west lagoons- re-grade and replant much of the edges for wetland and emergent plant and aquatic plant and animal habitat and islands (7 new) for heron habitat, renew bottom and islands and replace invasive fish population with native, separated from Columbia Basin, clean and restore habitat of edge of the South Lagoon (Inner Harbor) and parts of the Outer Harbor. Restore woodlands in and around Wooded Island. Create at various places including in and around the golf course 12 new sedge meadows and ponds to include reeds and others marsh plants for amphibians and dragonflies and 2 for mudpuppies. Clear c.300 dead or dying ash trees. Work on Wooded Island may include up to 25% replacement in places, esp. SW, and heavy along the west edge of the west lagoon to Cornell Drive (with a new path, fishing pier). 1 million wildflowers/native plants, 300,000 shrubs, 1,300 trees. Excluded: most of the north and west-edge, missile-base areas (Bobolink and golf driving range), most east lawns, golf & rec’l, lake shore.

Funds: Total $8.1M. c. 65% federal. Park District total $1.9M in money-- $700,000 in bond revenues, $700,000 from Project 120 (which also is paying for Olmsted oversight and landscaping planning by Heritage Landscapes and 3 continuing inspections), $500,000 more in private. Value of acreage is also counted


Letter of Support s/ Louise McCurry Aug. 11, 2014. (Per req. Michael Lange, CPD Project Manager. Revised project was presented Aug. 11, 2014. Standing JPAC resolution approved the project early in the summer and in principal the previous summer. Questions were asked August 11 and after but the proceeding with the project was not challenged. The CPD board placed the contract/Agreement for RFP between CPD and USACE on its Aug. 13 agenda and approved.)

"To: the Board of the Chicago Park District,
From: the Jackson Park Advisory Council,

The Jackson Park Advisory Council, the first Chicago park advisory council founded in 1983, who has advocated for environmental stewardship in Jackson Park is writing in support of the Olmsted Natural Area Plantings as part of the Chicago Park District and US Army Corps of Engineers project. We have hosted and attended multiple public meetings on the project and have been involved in the development process.

The project will create biologically diverse habitats in the park while respecting the Olmsted firm design intent. The Jackson Park Advisory Council believes that the restoration project is an important ecological investment for Jackson Park. We are grateful to the Chicago Park District and the Army Corps of Engineers for their transparency and support of community involvement in this important project.

Thank You for all that you are doing for our parks,
Louise McCurry,
Jackson Park Advisory Council President"

Louise McCurry's "thank you" to all involved. August 14, 2014

Dear Jackson Park Team Members,
Remember 4 years ago when we started removing the shopping carts, bowie knives, hundreds of condoms, bullets, syringes, old refrigerators, boat engines, and years of garbage bags, dead trees and bushes, from the banks of the lagoons, Bobolink, LaRabida, the Wooded Island, and the 67th street beach. Remember our first walk throughs with Adam Schwerner and various park and birder officials. Remember when we had our first community tour and our tourees said they never knew that Jackson Park was such an amazing place. Remember answering countless questions from naysayers, responding to hundreds of negative and positive emails, blog posts, list serves, and being THERE whenever a positive crowd for an event was needed.
Well after hundreds of meetings, tours, letters, phone calls, community events, and just generally being that squeaking wheel ........we did it..!

Special Thank you, to Adam Schwerner and Michael Kelly, who listened to us 4 years ago, who walked with us, whose genius saw the possibilities and brought people together who could make it happen.

A very Special Thank You to Robert Karr, who made it all possible by raising the money, and conducted the negotiations with the ACE and the Park District, hired the foremost Olmsted Architect Patricia O'Donnell, in the country to make an Olmsted park design, and who answered countless questions from community members.

WE DID IT!!!!.....
We are getting $8.1M of improvements in historic and ecologically important Jackson Park.

Children and their families visiting the park ,in the future, thank you!
You Are My Heroes!

Louise McCurry, JPAC President

JPAC letters on the ACE Project particularly as it applies to the lagoons and fish as sent to and published in the Hyde Park Herald August 27, 2014

As to the Hyde Park Herald. By Louise McCurry, President and Jackson Park Advisory Council. August 21, 2014

Thank You Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul for writing this week's article about the restoration plan for Jackson Park, utilizing the original Olmsted Plan to create a beautiful, "democratic" park for all to enjoy. Thank you to everyone on the Hyde Park Herald Staff for the coverage over the last four years. JPAC and the Chicago Park District has put in thousands of volunteer hours partnering with the Chicago Park District to plant thousands of trees, plants, and create natural habitats in the nature preserves, build playgrounds, repair and build new recreational areas, repair the fieldhouse for community meetings, remove the years of trash and invasive species accumulations, and open up the rich and important history of Jackson Park to the community through free tours, historical feature naming, lectures, and community forums-- and the Herald covered them. We believe that every Hyde Parker and every Chicagoan should come to Jackson Park and relax in its peaceful surroundings, play in safe sports and recreation areas, and playgrounds, swim on its beautiful and safe beaches, and fish in its safe lagoons and harbors.

So it is particularly painful for JPAC members to see the community wide damage done with the inaccurate headlines that the Herald chose for the restoration plan article this week. We applaud the Park District and the Army Corp of Engineers for being completely transparent through hours of multiple open community meetings, answering every question; including the community in every step of the planning process, and incorporating the community suggestions into the plan. The Herald headlines of all species in the Jackson Park Lagoon to be exterminated with poison is inaccurate followed by the statement of "Say goodbye to the fish in the Jackson Park Lagoon" is sensational and inaccurate. It will sell newspapers, and we support the Herald for its important historic role in making Hyde Park an informed and involved community. But is just wrong! Removing unhealthy, damaging and invasive species from the waterways to protect native fish habitats is an important ecological fish management practice to maintain those habitats. It produces an abundant fish population which fishermen, women, and children can catch, use to feed their families, or simply to catch and release as practiced by many fisherman. The restoration plan is about producing more safe areas for fishing, walking, biking, and recreating, more natural areas where birds and wildlife can live successfully, more areas where teachers and school children can visit to learn about plants, animals birds, and fish here in Jackson Park.

So we really hope that this was an error that the Herald staff chose these headlines to characterize this wonderful ecological plan to restore the park utilizing the original Frederick Law Olmsted plan to restore our beautiful Jackson Park. It is a plan which is too big to cover in a couple of newspaper paragraphs. We invite anyone who would like to learn more or ask questions, to attend our JPAC educational meetings the second Monday of each month.

Louise McCurry, President
JPAC: Jackson Park Advisory Council

The following was submitted by Jerry Levy to HP Herald for issue of Aug. 27 2014

I am the Chicago Park District volunteer steward for Wooded Island and am a member of the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC). Wearing these two hats, I often weigh proposals of the Park District on a scale to balance the interests of the Park District with those of the residents around Jackson Park. Often, I then try to present, sometimes with little success, my opinions.

I have attended several meetings and met with people involved in the proposal for the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Project 506, relating to the project in Jackson Park that includes Wooded Island and its lagoons. I attended the meeting of JPAC last Monday. I came away with a very different view of the project from that left by the Herald’s article.

The essence of the treatment of the lagoons isn’t a “fishkill,” but a program to enhance the aesthetics and quality of the water of the lagoons. While it is doubtful that the water, which now frequently looks like chocolate pudding, can be changed to look like the pristine water of Lake Michigan, what ACE plans on doing will certainly improve its appearance. As presented, the ACE is going to spend a large amount of money to improve the appearance of the water, while at the same time upgrading its quality for fish and other aquatic life. They hope to accomplish this by two separate processes.

The first and most extensive is to regrade a significant portion of the shoreline around the edge of the lagoons. This would eliminate the drop-offs and bring the shore down to the water’s edge. The result is known as a “swamp fringe.” When the shore is regraded to the level of the water, it is then planted with herbaceous native plants, sedges, and grasses. The effect would be two-fold: it would deter runoff of rainwater carrying dirt and mud into the lagoons while simultaneously limiting erosion, all of which would help clear the water. As an added benefit, it would allow fishermen and visitors access to the water’s edge.

The other process for treating the quality and aesthetics of the lagoon water is to change the fish species from bottom-diggers that churn the mud to a higher species quality that would improve the water and the attraction of fishing in the lagoons. The elimination of the existing fish would be followed by stocking the lagoons with increasing sizes of native fish, including game fish.

The “fishkill” focus of the Herald article may have been eyecatching, but, unfortunately, it put a negative spin on a program that will have a significant beneficial impact on a treasure of our community.

Jerry Levy

FAQ document from USACE (Frank Veraldi) to Questions posed editorially by Hyde Park Herald, JPAC members, and community members regarding the lagoon and fish actions in Jackson Park in the 2014 plan.

Question: What fish poison would be used for Jackson Park Lagoons?

Response: Rotenone is a naturally occurring chemical with insecticidal, acaricidal (mite and spider-killing) and piscicidal (fish-killing) properties, obtained from the roots of several tropical and subtropical plant species belonging to the genus Lonchocarpus spp. or Derris spp. It is a selective, non-specific insecticide, used in home gardens for insect control, for lice and tick control on pets, and for fish eradications as part of water body management. It is a contact and stomach poison to insects, that causes them to stop feeding almost immediately, eventually killing them. Rotenone exerts its toxic action by acting as a general inhibitor of cellular respiration. In gill breathing animals, it disallows oxygen to be absorbed for cellular respiration. This plant-derived piscicide has been known for centuries by Asian and Central and South American peoples, whom would harvest the roots, crush them, wave them in the water, and harvest their fish dinner. See links below for more facts and USEPA registration below.

Question: What side effects of the poison could we see?

Response: There would be no side effects to any organism that does not have gills due to the very short period the Rotenone would be present in the Lagoon environment. There were various different types of toxicological studies performed on animals, and the amounts used to remove fish are well under the doses to affect any organisms aside of those with gills. See the links in the preceding question for more information.

Question: Is poisoning fish in ponds a half century behind the accepted practices of the times?

Response: Actually, this practice is about 5 centuries old; however, some ancient discoveries have withstood the test of time. In our global environment, new species are constantly introduced into new environments where they have significant negative impacts ecosystems, other organisms and often have a negative impact on biological integrity and stability of native systems. In fact, not controlling these species is definitely a half century behind the times. As humans are starting to realize that harsh manmade chemicals are poisoning us more so than the targeted plants and animals, we are reverting to more natural remedies to problems. Some terrible chemicals were used such as DDT, and some still used today, such as Atrazine, Paraquat, Camphor, etc. The use of Rotenone in this project is a deliberate alternative to more harsh chemicals. As described above, it is a natural, plant-derived substance that was employed by Native South Americans to catch fish for consumption. Sometimes age old techniques are the right choice vs. the modern day poisons, destruction and ignorance how our planet works.

Question: How long will the Rotenone remain active?

Response: The Rotenone would completely dissipate in 3 to 4 days.

Question: Will the poison kill the frogs, turtles, birds, amphibians and human’s drinking water?

Response: Turtles and birds do not have gills, so they cannot be affected. The small amount of fish that would be killed could also be eaten by birds and turtles with no effect. The carcasses and moribund fish would be cleaned up immediately by the contractors and Corps personnel, but this is not because any danger they would have on other wildlife, it is mostly for human aesthetics and olefactory purposes. Amphibian larval stages do have gills, however, so the timing of the Rotenone application, which would be before tadpoles and efts hatch, is critical. The successful treatment of the ponds at Indian Ridge Marsh at 122nd Street and Torrence Ave. in 2011 actually caused the frog population to explode. Removing fish from a system removes amphibian predators; therefore they go unchecked and the population explodes.

It is not recommended to drink water out of Jackson Park Lagoons since the primary source of water are storm sewers and runoff from dirty roads and parking lots. Since the East & West Lagoon will be drawn down with pumps to accommodate bank grading and fish removal, Rotenone will not be able to enter Lake Michigan.

Question: Why does the whole pond have to be poisoned to remove Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) when there are a variety of more attractive fish present?

Response: There are actually very few fish in the Jackson Park East & West Lagoons due to environmental conditions. In the winter of 2013/2014, the extreme cold and ice cover resulted in a significant fish kill in the Lagoons of Jackson Park. A fish survey conducted by Corps biologists on 15 July 2014 revealed just three species of fish in the lagoons, and only one individual per species. Species collected were one Blackstripe Topminnow (Fundulus notatus), one Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), and one Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), all under 2-inches in length. In addition to the incredibly cold winter, there are currently no aquatic plants that fish need for reproduction and there is overfishing of game species (Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish). Currently, game fish cannot reproduce in the lagoons, due to the lack of vegetation, and the ILDNR continually stocks these species every year to keep up with fisherman taking them out of the system.

The Jackson Park restoration plan will first focus on the removal of existing fish, including Common Carp that are bottom dwellers that uproot establishing plants and stir up mud, reducing water clarity and quality. Small, native fish species that are good food sources for resident and migratory birds will be re-introduced immediately while aquatic plants and increasingly larger fish will be introduced over time as the restoration continues and appropriate habitat is restored. If we conducted the lagoon restoration without first removing these fish, there is a very small likelihood that the aquatic plants would survive and establish, and our efforts to restore the lagoon to a thriving aquatic ecosystem would be wasted.

The term “attractive fish” is a very subjective term, and depends who is using it. Fisherman would find certain species attractive while folks that care for birds would find a different suite of species more attractive due to the sustenance provided for birds. Ichthyologists have a different perspective of fishes than fisheries biologists, where ichthyologists would find only morphological and genetic nativity attractive whereas fisheries biologists would find genetically modified or bred fishes to get bigger for stocking and catching. A person visiting the Shedd Aquarium would find different species of fish “attractive” for different reasons as well, color, size, morphology, etc.
Question: Why eliminate fish when families are happily fishing there now?

Response: The fish are not being eliminated, but interchanged with different species. The species list provided above that shows what different fish will be in the Columbia Basin, East & West Lagoons and the South Harbor, as well as what they are good for. Families will be able to fish happily once a certain level of restoration is achieved in the East & West Lagoons, which may take up to three years. Fishing may continue unrestricted in the Columbia Basin, South Harbor and Lake Michigan. A plan will be developed in conjunction with the ILDNR to keep the several species of game fish in the East & West Lagoon restoration area continually stocked yearly to keep up with fisherman removing them from the system. Also, fishing regulations could be put in place by the Chicago Park District to protect the overharvesting of fishes in such a small pond.

Also, great care should be taken when consuming fish from highly urbanized areas and bodies of water. Common Carp should not be eaten unless bought from a clean fish farm, especially by women planning to bear children. Please see Lake Michigan Fish Consumption Advisories for fishes most commonly caught for food:

Question: What compelling reason is there for such radical treatment of a perfectly normal ecosystem?

Response: Jackson Park East & West Lagoons were created by man for the Columbia Exposition in the late 1800s, and without human intervention, the Jackson Park lagoons would be sand dunes with no fish habitat. This history alone denotes that the once unique ecosystem was replaced with a park primarily for humans. The restoration plan at Jackson Park in general is to enhance, improve and create wildlife habitat while honoring the historical significance and for park visitors to experience nature and wildlife within the city. There are hardly any fish left in the Lagoons due to the winter fish kill, overfishing and degraded habitat. The primary reason that there fish are available every year in the Lagoons is because the ILDNR has a stocking program to support fishing. Common Carp are in the system because fishermen illegally stock them. The reason for removing Common Carp, at minimum for a period of 5 years, is to establish aquatic plant growth so several species of native fishes are able to reproduce naturally.

Question: Do frogs survive the winters in Chicago.

Response: Yes, amphibians and reptiles hibernate during the winter months. Some underground, some under water, some under leaf litter, and some in trees. Some species of frogs and juvenile turtles can become completely frozen and survive the winter via specialized hibernation biomechanics.

Question: What is the difference between game fish vs. regular catch and eat fish?

Response: Usually, they are the same thing, but differences can be identified. Certain anglers are only looking to catch fish for the thrill of the “fight”, and usually target species such as Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu), Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). These fish can be eaten are delicious if captured from a clean body of water.

Question: Is the fish assemblage in the Columbia Basin, East & West Lagoon and the South Harbor the same or different?

Response: The species that will make up the fish assemblage in the Columbia Basin, East & West Lagoons, and the South Harbor will all be different, see Jackson Park Fish Chart. The Columbia Basin will have fishes stocked and provided by the ILDNR for fishing. The East & West Lagoons will have native fishes reintroduced, both game and non game fishes. This also includes several State Endangered & Threatened species such as the Banded Killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), Blackchin Shiner (Notropis heterodon) and Iowa Darter (Etheostoma exile). These rare fish will not come from natural populations since they are endangered, but from rearing ponds at Prairie Crossing for this exact purpose. The fishes in the South Harbor will be those that live in Lake Michigan.


ANOTHER NOTE, from Gary Ossewaarde:

A neighbor wrote to the Herald in late September suggesting that increasing the water circulation and freshness in the lagoons might allay the need for periodic killing of fish and replenishment. Suggested was opening an existing weir or creating a new channel to Lake Michigan. The issues regarding killing fish and the methods have been answered as above. Also, aside from improvements to the slopes and other changes to stop erosion and keep the water quality, habitat and food better so the fish and other new aquatic life will have a better chance of surviving and reproducing for years, the costs would be high and there would be risks- 1 is flooding-- last time there was some opening, in the 1980s, there was flooding into the Museum of Science and Industry at the back steps and flooding elsewhere. 2. IN SHORT, THE WATER IS ABOUT AS HIGH AS IT CAN BE ALLOWED TO BE- we can dredge down, but not let the lagoon water get higher-- in fact, there is a spillway from the lagoons at the Music Court bridge just in case. 2, There are invasives, bacteria and more in the Lake that we would not want to see in the lagoons.


Jackson Park Restoration Progress summary by year: Russell Heinrich, Project Manager, Applied Ecological Services, October 2018, October 13 informational tour.

Year 1: Project area is fenced off. Lagoon is drained to allow for slope grading to curb erosion. Slope grading is performed and completed to allow rewatering of lagoon. General contractor and subcontractor perform large scale tree removal with emphasis on maintaining oak woodland habitat on Wooded Island. Site preparation of all project planting areas, including removal of turf grass and undesired vegetation. Layout of planting beds is completed. Pathway construction begins. Planting activities begin. Temporary irrigation is installed to assist plant establishment.

End result of Year 1 – Stark difference in park aesthetics, as congested wooded areas are opened up to allow more space for oak growth and natives within seed bank to express. Site appears barren, about 25% percent native coverage despite 40% of original contract planting completed. Site is closed to general public due to heavy machinery work being performed around site.

Year 2: Pathways and Overlooks are completed. Majority of heavy equipment needs onsite are completed. Large scale invasive species management begins. Planting plans on Wooded Island are revised and planting begins there. Plant quantities are increased to help increase native coverage.

End result of Year 2 – Wooded Island is opened to public to allow viewing of recently installed Skylanding sculpture, but other park areas are still closed to general public. Native plants begin emerging from seed bank on Wooded Island. Native plant cover across site now has increased to about 50% of project area.

Year 3: Large scale invasive management continues to reduce undesired vegetation competing with establishing natives. Planting activities continue. Native plants are beginning to produce seed and self-propagation begins. 80% of fencing is removed to allow patron access to site. Only fencing that still remains is kept for contractor security onsite. Irrigation begins to be phased out.

End result of Year 3 – 80% of site is now open to public. Despite weeds being a particularly heavy management concern for year 3, native plant coverage grows to approximately 75% of site. Monarch butterfly larvae have now been documented on a variety of milkweed species planted throughout the site.

Year 4: Planting activities begin concluding. Irrigation is removed from planting beds entirely. Invasive maintenance continues to suppress new invasive introduction onsite and continue to reduce undesirable perennial species.

End Result of Year 4: Plant installation is 99.9% complete. Native plants now cover approximately 90% of project area, and are dense enough to resist large scale weed displacement. Drastic increase in observations of native species of both birds and pollinator insects, including honey bees and monarch butterfly larvae and adults.

Year 5 Projections: Planting activities are completed early in growing season, and maintenance activities continue throughout growing season. All remaining construction materials are removed as project activities are completed and signed off by USACE.

Projected End Result of Year 5 – Native coverage is approximately 99% throughout Jackson Park. Project concludes October 19th, and all equipment is demobilized from project area. AES transitions maintenance needs to CPD and volunteer stewards.

As far as volunteer maintenance activities we discussed, Japanese hops (Humulus japonicas), grape vine species (Vitis labrusca/aestivalis/ect.) , field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), and mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata) are a great targets for removal. Let me know when you have a group scheduled and I will help provide staff that can perform herbicide treatment to root systems and dispose of the vine biomass. Additionally, mulching the WI mulch path, around park benches and oak cages is another great volunteer activity.

One of the best websites I’ve found for plant ID consultation is . I heavily used this website to familiarize myself with any of the over 300 plant species we installed onsite, and help plant them where they would function best within Jackson Park. I also recommend the iNaturalist app for any iPhone users. The current A.I. is not without fault, especially when flower parts are absent, but does provide a great place to start when trying to ID new plants. The app attaches a photo ID to geolocation marker allowing for observers to return to the site where they identified the observation. The app not only works for plant species, but also provides expert verification of species of birds, insects, herps, and mammals.

Hope this information is helpful.

Russell Heinrichs QCM & SSHO Jackson Park Restoration Project
Applied Ecological Services 773-414-4751