WEST ROGERS PARK — Crews are ready to begin construction of the 20-acre West Ridge Nature Preserve after the city awarded a $4.5 million contract for the long-awaited project.
Contractor F.H. Paschen will take the lead at the former Rosehill Cemetery property in the 5800 block of North Western Avenue, according to the contract awarded last week.
A groundbreaking ceremony was planned for Thursday morning, but the mayor's office canceled it due to rainy weather and stormy forecasts. The 40th Ward office says the ceremony could be rescheduled for next week.
"The pond and surrounding woodland are truly special for the feeling they give of a sanctuary from the busyness of city life which is so very rare in the urban setting and which draws so many to natural areas," said Patrice Ceisel, the vice president of the park's advisory council.
For decades, the pond and surrounding woodland on the plot of land had remained untouched, except by the occasional trespassing angler, bird watcher or pack of children seeking summer adventure.
But, according to plans presented to residents last year, the land would be transformed, featuring a pathway surrounding a pond with designated fishing holes and boat launches.
An advisory council set up after some residents complained that the plans promoted less of a nature preserve and more of an "entertainment venue" were able to convince the Park District to outlaw dogs and boats.
The former Rosehill Cemetery property was purchased by the city in 2011 for $7.7 million, the biggest acquisition of land by the city in decades, according to Ald. Pat O'Connor.
The contract for the project details the work that is expected to be completed by July 2015:
"The work includes but is not limited to the following activities: debris and tree removal, clearing and grubbing, earth excavation, re-grading and paving for asphalt, concrete, and stone paved paths, utilities, including storm, sewer, and water, boardwalks and overlooks, fence repair and installation, tree installation, seeding and plugging..."
A Chicago Park District spokeswoman didn't respond to requests for additional information about the park's final plans.
The funding for the park was provided by the Federal Highway Association and administrated by the Illinois Department of Transportation, according to the contract. The contract also states that no work in the park can be done between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Subcontractor Arteaga Landscapes, LLC, would be planting dozens of trees, including birch, sugar maple, various oak, eastern redbud, cockspur hawthorn, plum, dogwood and more.
Other subcontractors are tasked with masonry, carpentry, quality control and other work, according to the contract.
Ceisel, of the advisory council, said the park when completed would allow residents to witness the migratory birds and other animals that are attracted to the Rosehill area. In all, 180 bird species have been documented there, she said.
The land has also been studied by archeologists, who discovered remnants of ancient villages on the park's land. The discovery didn't delay the plans to build the park.
The advisory council's "education committee is busy creating plans to highlight these wild birds and other animals to inspire wonder and curiosity in our visitors," she said. "We look forward to working with Ald. O'Connor and the Park District in maintaining this site as a jewel in the Chicago community."
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