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Park District OKs $8.1 Million in Habitat Restoration for Jackson Park

By  Sam Cholke and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | August 14, 2014 7:03am 

 The Army Corps of Engineers will lead $8.1 million in habitat restorations for Jackson Park.
The Army Corps of Engineers will lead $8.1 million in habitat restorations for Jackson Park.
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Courtesy of the Chicago Park District

HYDE PARK — Jackson Park will get new islands, mud puppy pools and rare pond habitats under a Wednesday agreement between the Park District and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The $8.1 million restoration project will plant one million wildflowers, 330,000 shrubs and 1,300 trees on 140 acres of the park, restoring habitat in nearly every square-foot of the 560-acre park not used by soccer fields or the golf course.

In May, the Army Corps proposed a menu of options for restoring habitat in the park and at a Wednesday Park District board meeting, showed it would pursue the most ambitious option.

The plan is a bargain for the Park District, which is putting up $700,000 in bond revenue after nonprofit Project 120 offered to fund $700,000 of the project costs.

“It’s most important that the Park District invest in this ecologically historic landscape restoration because it’s an incubator of ideas and is representative of what this country’s parks are all about,” said Robert Karr, president of the non-profit that is also leading fundraising efforts for a $10 million visitors center for the park.

Project 120 is also footing the bill for a landscape architect to make sure the work aligns with designer Frederick Law Olmstead’s vision for the park.

The plan calls for 12 new ponds for dragonflies and amphibians and two additional ponds specifically for mudpuppies, a foot-long salamander that is sometimes referred to as a waterdog for its squeaky bark.

The entire shoreline of the Jackson Park lagoon and the inner harbor will be restored with areas of reeds and other marsh plants added along the shore.

The woodlands that border the harbor and ring the golf course will be cleared of 300 ash trees and other invasive species and seeded with new native plants.

Up to seven small islands could be added to the lagoon as heron habitat and a sedge meadow would replace an island of rough grass in the middle of the golf course.

The lagoon itself would be cleared of goldfish and other invasive species and restocked with crappies, brown bullheads, newts and mussels.

The project is expected to take five years to complete and the new habitats taking up to 25 years to fully mature.

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