WEST ROGERS PARK — Chicago Park District officials dug in Monday night, telling North Side neighbors Indian Boundary Park would no longer be home to animals.
The little-known zoo at 2500 W. Lunt Ave. at one time held a bear, llamas, swans and even a bald eagle, residents say, but in recent years the zoo's population has dwindled to a goat, a few chickens and two ducks.
"We know the animals are going away," Robert Rejman, the Park District's director of planning and construction, said at a public meeting Monday night. "Lincoln Park Zoo is not going to be involved in Indian Boundary Zoo."
But some neighbors decried the Park District's plan to remove the animals and transform the decrepit zoo into a habitat to attract native wildlife.
"Don't take away our animals," said Karen Vanoyrek, a member of the park's advisory council. "That 80-year-old zoo in our area is known as a gem, a jewel in our neighborhood because it is. It's not a cookie-cutter stamp of other parks, and it wasn't meant to be.
"It was meant to be a unique park — and that it is."
Rejman said his team would move forward with design plans — which include a renovation of the former zoo building — by Friday.
A bird's-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. But Park District officials said they'd spare the animal enclosures for now, in case residents want to reuse them later.
Since plans to replace the zoo first surfaced, neighbors have been scrambling to come up with ideas to make the park a better home to animals.
Some of the ideas include adding beehives, a dog park and even roaming goats and sheep to maintain the park's grasses.
Dan Rockafield, who leads neighborhood group People United to Improve Indian Boundary Park, said the Park District hadn't given the community enough time to help plan renovations at the zoo.
"We want you to help us help you," he told Rejman. "Please don't do the planning and design in isolation. Bring it back to us for comment."
Rejman said the Park District intends to bring exotic animals back to the park during scheduled programs — and host a festival in the fall near new community gardens that are also part of the Park District's proposal.
But he said the $300,000 the Park District has available to make renovations could be lost if not used soon.
The zoo has a $90,000 operating budget, which is mainly paid to the Lincoln Park Zoo to care for the animals. The zoo's new operating budget would be reduced to $35,000, Rejman said.
To repopulate the zoo with more animals, the Park District would need to pay for $2 million in repairs, officials said.
"We're not waiting a year. The money could go away," said Rejman. "We just want to make improvements in the short term to make [the park] better."