WEST ROGERS PARK — Although the alderman said new animals wouldn't be returning to Chicago's little-known Indian Boundary Park Zoo, residents living nearby said they wouldn't give up their fight to "Save the Zoo."
More than 100 neighbors crammed into a classroom in the Warren Park field house Wednesday to brainstorm how to persuade the Chicago Park District to scrap its plans to turn the decrepit zoo into a habitat to attract native wildlife.
Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) was quick to dash the hopes of those thinking animals like llamas, cows and swans would ever return to the zoo that now only holds six chickens and a couple of ducks and one goat.
The zoo had been home to a pair of goats, but last week a 15-year-old goat George, who had lived at the zoo since 2003, was euthanized due to "severe" cardiovascular issues caused by a tumor, officials confirmed Thursday.
"The Park District is not going to put animals back into the park," Silverstein said. "I am telling you now, the Park District will not spend $2 million to renovate the zoo."
The alderman arrived late to the heated meeting and left early, angering some who say communications regarding the park district's plans have been less than clear. Silverstein said she was hosting a Jewish wedding celebration and wasn't given enough time to fully schedule the meeting organized by the Indian Boundary Park advisory council.
Silverstein also said she had advertised two other meetings to talk about the park district's plans and that residents were open to a nature center with a butterfly garden and native shrubbery.
"She thinks we don't care," said Jennifer Albom, president of the council. "That gives her the green light to close the zoo."
Albom and others said the zoo at 2500 W. Lunt Ave. had been neglected for years, despite the community's willingness to help maintain the cages and domesticated animals.
But now it might be too late to save what's left of Lincoln Park Zoo's little sister that has been in the neighborhood since 1915.
"They're trying to shove it down our throat," said Frank Glapa, a longtime resident of the area. "It's our community and we should hang on to what we got."
Park District officials were not immediately available for comment, but said last month that the zoo's annual budget was $90,000. Its animals are provided and cared for by the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Joel, who declined to share his last name because he works for the Lincoln Park Zoo as a veterinarian and hadn't been approved to officially speak about the issue, said he's lived in the community for more than 20 years and often cared for the small zoo's remaining animals.
He said the zoo's lone building didn't provide the same level of comfort as the facilities in Lincoln Park.
"Try to take the emotional aspect out of this and think about the animals' welfare," he said. "If you put yourself in their place ... would you want to live 16 hours a day in the cold in the winter time, in the heat in the summer? Drafty, hard-floored area and just have six hours a day to enjoy the sunshine — and have kids poking at you?"
Joel said he took his granddaughter to the park's lagoon rather than the zoo to see the natural wildlife, like "the bunny rabbits, the Great Blue Heron — I saw a Black-crowned Night Heron last week. Those are endangered in Illinois."
Silverstein agreed that a native habitat would be better than the status quo.
"You see what is there now," she said. "We're trying to make something better out of it."
At the end of the meeting, when the shouting had mostly subsided, one curious girl raised her hand.
She asked: "What are you going to do with the animals?"