To the Editor:
This is in response to Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul’s article, “Jackson Park bid winner picked” (Hyde Park Herald, October 8 2014, p. 6), which I believe is presenting important information and deserves the attention of Hyde Park residents. The article indicates that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has just awarded a contract for a 139-acre, five-year restoration of native habitats in Jackson Park, which will apparently be able to spend up to $12.4 million, and is being accompanied by a separate effort to bring a $10 million visitors’ center to the park.
Restoration of natural habitats sounds good, except that it would seem that much of the present vegetation on Wooded Island is to be removed and replaced by saplings from nurseries, while the word is that the Wooded Island area will be fenced off to prevent access while this is going on for an extended period — like a year. Whom is that helping?
Furthermore, the lagoons are to be poisoned in order to kill off the undesirable fish that survive in the stagnant and polluted water so as to replace these fish with game fish whose normal habitat is clear water. I have inquired why not bring a flow of clear clean water through the lagoons from Lake Michigan so that game fish can survive, instead of repeatedly killing the resident fish in the muddy water and replacing them temporarily with game fish.
An answer seems to be forthcoming by turning our attention back to the presence of missile sites built to provide defense for Chicago against the possibility of an attack by Russian bombers in the 1950s to 1970s. Readers of a certain age will remember the presence of the radar installation on Promontory Point whose towers dwarfed the turret of the Fieldhouse, and the Nike Ajax and nuclear-capable Nike Hercules missile launch sites in Jackson Park. (For contemporary information, check the Hyde Park Herald archives; for example, the front page article on June 23, 1971, in which it tells us that “Hyde Parkers testifying at the hearing, including Alderman Leon Despres and Congressman Abner Mikva, vehemently opposed anything but complete restoration of the land.”) The thing is, the restoration of Jackson Park was apparently never completed. There were hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes there at these missile launch sites, and hazards were still found in 1999 and 2001. There are apparently still outfalls from Bob-o-link meadow, and oily waste seepage is even visible in the southeast corner of the East Lagoon, which appears to be coming from an area mainly allocated to the Nike site administrative buildings.
I have been able to turn up no information indicating any closure in the cleanup of hazardous wastes from these missile launch sites and associated old military installations. It would seem to me that it would be a far better idea for the Army Corps of Engineers to clean up the toxic sludges in the lagoon waters and the hazardous materials buried just under the surface in Jackson Park, rather than to conduct the minor superficial improvements they are planning, as discussed in the Hyde Park Herald article.