HYDE PARK — Wooded Island in Jackson Park will start reopening little by little starting on Saturday.
The island has been closed since April and could have remained off-limits for five years as part of a deal for ongoing habitat restoration project with the Army Corps of Engineers in Jackson Park.
In an effort to get people back to the park on a more consistent basis, the Chicago Park District will allow people to walk the new paths for two hours on weekend days starting on Saturday. But unlike most parks, visitors will need to sign a waiver to go on the island, where crews are still working on the restoration.
“It’s not finished,” said Lauren Umek, the project manager for the restoration at the Chicago Park District. “It will still be an active construction site.”
From noon to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through the spring, people will get a chance to walk around on the paths on the island by entering through the south gate.
Currently, the only way to get onto the island, which is home to some of the south lakefront’s only deer and beavers, is to join the group of about 40 people that Umek leads on a tour once a month. But on the tours, there is little opportunity to wander off and experience the island on one’s own.
Umek said the new “unstructured tours” would provide some of that experience now for people who have been asking to get more time on the island.
In June, the Chicago Park District is expected to reopen the island for daily visits.
Umek said that remained the expectation, but said people would be restricted to just the paved paths and some areas might be fenced off while new plants being planted by the Army Corps were getting established.
She said it would still be a couple of years before the lagoons were restocked with game fish, though minnows were added to the lagoon last year.
Umek will continue leading guided tours of Wooded Island at 10 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of the month.
The Wooded Island as it appeared in during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. [The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the White City Artfolio]
Wooded Island is home to many unique South Side animals like deer and beavers. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]
A temporary construction bridge, right, is built next to a pedestrian bridge at Jackson Park, where the lagoon was just cleaned. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]
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