ALBANY PARK — The Horner Park riverbank restoration project is moving forward with concessions to community members who protested the removal of hundreds of trees, changes that represent wins for residents on both the park's west bank and the opposite eastern shore.
Peter Schlossman, president of the Horner Park Advisory Council, praised the revised plan as a "great improvement" on the original.
"It saves nearly all of the upland trees outside the regraded zone, provides public access near the river and preserves the existing riverbank and wooded areas where possible," he said in an email.
The proposed removal of trees as part of the "aquatic ecosystem restoration" project brought out more than 100 neighbors to a Horner Park field house meeting last week, with one neighbor labeling the plan "a horrifying holocaust on the trees."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose home is on along the east bank, attended that meeting as a private citizen. She asked that officials and residents take a closer look at what trees could be saved.
Ald. Deb Mell (3rd), who supported the restoration, shared a letter with constituents from Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly and Col. Frederic Drummond of the Army Corps of Engineers. It outlined adjustments to the project's scope as well as a timeline for work to proceed.
Among the most significant alterations to the plan, made in response to complaints from east bank homeowners: two sections of the riverbank, between the park's fence and the waterline, will remain at their current grade, with little change to the vegetation except for the removal of invasive species (largely buckthorn).
In the area between the fence and the top of the regraded bank, 42 trees will be uprooted, dozens fewer than the initial projection.
In the section between the regraded bank and the project's western limit, all trees will remain. Of the 189 trees in this zone, 25 percent were originally marked for removal.
The Park District has also committed to taking a number of steps to mitigate the impact of lights from the park shining into homes across the bank.
Community groups such as the Horner Park Advisory Council and the Horner Park West Neighborhood Association, which had supported the restoration, also received a couple of items on their wish list.
A mowed grass buffer between the restoration area and the park's concrete path has been widened from eight feet to 10, making more room for park uses such as picnicking.
Wood chip trails have been added closer to the river, at neighbors' request, with multiple access points to address safety concerns.
"These revisions demonstrate the positive impact of the community in the process" and the Army Corps' and Park District's "willingness to cooperate with all the parties affected by the restoration effort," said Schlossman.
"I want to thank all of those that wrote letters in support of the project and acknowledge the concerns of those who opposed it, as their input helped improve the project."
According to a preliminary timeline, work would begin in mid-February, clearing would be completed by mid-March and earthwork would wrap up by mid-May. An initial round of native plantings would be put in the ground by mid-September.