To the Editor:
I am the Chicago Park District volunteer steward for Wooded Island and am a member of the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC). Wearing these two hats, I often weigh proposals of the Park District on a scale to balance the interests of the Park District with those of the residents around Jackson Park. Often, I then try to present, sometimes with little success, my opinions.
I have attended several meetings and met with people involved in the proposal for the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Project 506, relating to the project in Jackson Park that includes Wooded Island and its lagoons. I attended the meeting of JPAC two Mondays ago. I came away with a very different view of the project from that left by the Herald’s article.
The essence of the treatment of the lagoons isn’t a “fishkill,” but a program to enhance the aesthetics and quality of the water of the lagoons. While it is doubtful that the water, which now frequently looks like chocolate pudding, can be changed to look like the pristine water of Lake Michigan, what ACE plans on doing will certainly improve its appearance. As presented, the ACE is going to spend a large amount of money to improve the appearance of the water, while at the same time upgrading its quality for fish and other aquatic life. They hope to accomplish this by two separate processes.
The first and most extensive is to regrade a significant portion of the shoreline around the edge of the lagoons. This would eliminate the drop-offs and bring the shore down to the water’s edge. The result is known as a “swamp fringe.” When the shore is regraded to the level of the water, it is then planted with herbaceous native plants, sedges, and grasses. The effect would be two-fold: it would deter runoff of rainwater carrying dirt and mud into the lagoons while simultaneously limiting erosion, all of which would help clear the water. As an added benefit, it would allow fishermen and visitors access to the water’s edge.
The other process for treating the quality and aesthetics of the lagoon water is to change the fish species from bottom-diggers that churn the mud to a higher species quality that would improve the water and the attraction of fishing in the lagoons. The elimination of the existing fish would be followed by stocking the lagoons with increasing sizes of native fish, including game fish.
The “fishkill” focus of the Herald article may have been eyecatching, but, unfortunately, it put a negative spin on a program that will have a significant beneficial impact on a treasure of our community.