KENWOOD — The Chicago Park District is cutting down 40 acres of trees along the south lakefront in an effort to improve the area as a habitat for migrating birds.
The $1.1 million project will remove buckthorn and other invasive species from parkland between 31st and 47th streets, South Lake Shore Drive and the Canadian National railway tracks.
The goal is to restore the area as oak savanna for migrating birds.
“Right here in the city of Chicago we can help birds with great conservation needs to survive their journey from the tropics, by working together to create optimal habitat for them” said Judy Pollock, director of bird conservation National Audubon Society in the Chicago region.
“The lakefront is designated an important bird area and functions a crucial rest stop for migrating birds, including Illinois threatened species.”
George Davis, a steward for the Burnham Park Nature Sanctuary at the southern edge of the project area on 47th Street said birds use the lakefront as a landmark as they migrate and will stop in Hyde Park and other south lakefront neighborhoods to rest on the journey north.
Already the prairie and woodlands of the nature sanctuary are full of white-breasted nuthatches and house wrens, and one Hyde Parker recently spotted the elusive hooded warbler, with its distinctive yellow face.
The project hopes to increase such sightings in the future as a massive volunteer effort begins in the fall to plant 125,000 trees from seven species of oak.
“A tree planting event on this scale is visionary in multiple ways,” said Daniella Pereira, a forester with Openlands. “Not only will it be transformative for Burnham Park, but it is also an opportunity for volunteers from across Chicago to join with community leaders and neighborhood residents in support of our city’s urban forest and the wildlife that calls it home.”
The park district is partnering with Openlands to cram the narrow stretch between Lake Shore Drive and the railroad tracks with new trees.
As the current bird migration accelerates, the land is a deciduous killing field littered with the wood chips of hundreds of buckthorns and other invasive species as Kramer Tree Service works its way north to 31st Street.
The park district is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure only invasive species are removed as the project progresses towards the fall planting season.