WEST ROGERS PARK — Ignoring the alderman's claim that animals will not return to the Indian Boundary Park Zoo, hundreds of neighbors have joined the fight to keep the zoo open.
Dan Rockafield, who has lived within a couple blocks of the zoo for the past 10 years, said he and others have felt "disrespected" and "not listened to" since plans of the closure surfaced earlier in the summer.
"When we found out — rather backdoor — that this plan was going forward for the park district to demolish the animal zoo there and replace it with a nature center, I was immediately interested and got involved," he said, and now leads a group called People United to Improve Indian Boundary Park.
Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) — who said at a raucous public meeting in July that the park district "is not going to put animals back into the park" — plans to host an "open house" from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in her ward office, 2949 W. Devon Ave.
The park district plans to present designs for the "Indian Boundary Park Nature Oasis," which would replace the dilapidated zoo and attract area wildlife, according to the district.
A birds-eye-view conceptual drawing of the area shows the six-or-so animal cages replaced with stone pathways, a pine grove and a butterfly sanctuary.
Officials said the single zoo building would be renovated with classrooms.
The proposed project would cost $300,000, said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a park district spokeswoman.
To repopulate the zoo with more animals, she said, the park district would need to pay for $2 million in repairs.
She declined to say what kinds of animals could return if repairs are made.
But neighbors say the zoo had been neglected for years.
"This is not just a 50th ward, Rogers Park issue," said Rockafield. "There’s people from all over the North Side that use Indian Boundary Park because of its amenities."
Rockafield said more than 300 people have signed up to join in the fight to restore the zoo that now holds only a few chickens, two ducks and one goat. (A second goat, George, who had lived at the zoo since 2003, was euthanized recently due to severe cardiovascular issues caused by a tumor.)
Rockafield also claims that repeated offers from neighbors and organizations to volunteer at the zoo have gone unanswered by the park district.
The Red Door Animal Shelter proposed to donate animals it rescues from all over the city and help take care of them.
Organizers never heard back from the park district.
"We were kind of hoping to take over the space," said Toni Greetis, who helps run the shelter, which rescues chickens, rabbits, ducks and even goats and potbelly pigs.
"I’m hoping they can stick with something animal related," she added.