LINCOLN PARK — A revamp of the North Pond Nature Sanctuary could cost an estimated $12 million plus an ongoing maintenance endowment, officials said Thursday evening at a neighborhood meeting on the proposal.
More than 100 residents gathered at the Francis W. Parker School gym as the Lincoln Park Conservancy and Ayres Associates unveiled a preliminary plan that would include a tiered sedge meadow to filter water flowing into the pond, a wooden boardwalk and an update to the children’s playscape.
The conservancy, a nonprofit committed to improving the neighborhood's green space, is teaming up with Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and the Chicago Park District on the effort. The conservancy will soon launch a fundraising campaign.
The overall proposal calls for lawn repairs, sidewalk repairs, a tree succession plan and rain gardens to shield nearby CTA bus stops from flooding. The plan also includes making the pond deeper and adding more intimate park benches.
Residents provided more feedback during the meeting via comment cards and online surveys, but parkgoers who couldn’t make the meeting are also encouraged to complete the survey and find more information on the updates on the Lincoln Park Conservancy website. They also were asked to identify areas that they liked and areas that needed improvement by placing stickers on the maps of the parks.
According to the city, the North Pond lays on top of what used to be dunes and marshes belonging to Lake Michigan’s original shoreline. This area was used as a dump (“the 10-mile ditch”) in the late 19th century.
In 1881, landscape engineer Olaf Benson was called upon to expand the park south of Fullerton Avenue and build "lawns and a lake," according to the city. The result was 10 acres of open water with habitat for fish, ducks, herons and other waterfowl. Prairie plants like little bluestem and sky-blue aster grow around the upper parts of the banks.
“The pond itself is loved to death,” Jacob Blue of Ayres Associates said during the meeting at the school, 330 W. Webster Ave. “One of the things we hope to address with the plan is how can we design landscapes that can be used as aggressively or more aggressively for the next 130 years.”
Though some residents had concerns about the preservation of wildlife in the area and the installation of a wooden boardwalk, the presentation and impromptu Q&A session ended with an applause from residents. Blue assured residents that wildlife would not be greatly impacted during the restoration.
Using the feedback from residents, the proposal will be updated and a follow-up public meeting will be held in later this summer, sometime in late August or September, said Susan Fargo, Lincoln Park Conservancy President.
The estimated $12 million plus maintenance costs figure is preliminary, because the plans will change as more community feedback is considered, Fargo said. It is also unclear how long the proposed project would take until the plan is finalized, she said.
“We love the pond. And what we can’t do is come back every 10 or 15 years and redo the shoreline for $1.5 million or $2 million,” Fargo said during the presentation. “We have to find a permanent solution to that problem.”
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