WEST RIDGE — The pond in the long-awaited, 20.5-acre park at the corner of Rosehill Cemetery will soon be teeming with fish.
The West Ridge Nature Preserve's boardwalks and crushed-gravel pathways are taking shape as the Chicago Park District wrapped up the removal of hundreds of invasive trees and shrubs.
Flora native to the region will be planted in the park, including twice as many trees and shrubs than what was removed, said Tim Czarnecki, Ald. Pat O'Connor's 40th Ward chief of staff at a community meeting Thursday night.
Czarnecki addressed members of the Northtown Garden Society to provide the update about the park, expected to be completed by Aug. 1. Contractor F.H. Paschen was awarded the $4.5 million contract to develop the passive park on property bought by the city and transferred to the Chicago Park District.
Czarnecki said some of the work to remove trees had to be scaled back to remain within budget. He said some minor work would be completed later on, but much of the landscaping was well underway with plantings to begin in May.
Ben Woodard says this project has been in the works for years:
The concrete footings to support the boardwalk around parts of the pond have been poured. Eventually, a crushed-gravel path will be installed to weave through the park.
The water tower in the park, which feeds the cemetery's irrigation system, will remain and receive a new coat of paint.
The pond was dredged to make a better habitat for fish, which the pond will be stocked with.
Fisher Ginny Marin, 71, said she was happy about that.
"It's nice to have a place to go where we can walk and fish," she said Thursday night. "Having a park is really nice."
The park's advisory council has plans to eventually install a "nature playlot" to host programming for children to teach about the park's wildlife, including deer, coyotes and birds, Czarnecki said.
The park will not include any vendors or a field house, but would feature a boat launch for kayaks and canoes.
The entrance to the park will be located at Western and Ardmore avenues.
A Park District spokeswoman didn't respond to requests for additional information.
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. The former cemetery property was bought by the city in 2011 for $7.7 million, the biggest acquisition of land by the city in decades, according to O'Connor.
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.
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