OPC site is threat to bird habitat


To the Editor:

The Chicago Park District claims, on its website, that the Wooded Island was “created for the World’s Fair.” This is a bit of exaggeration, as the area we now know as the Wooded Island is, in fact, an old growth oak savannah, and it has been in existence, growing there for the last several thousand years. Olmsted created the lagoons that surround it, not the island.

We have the soil reports from the US Soil Conservation Service (now called the Natural Resources Conservation Service) that prove it. These oak savannah ecosystems feature widely spaced trees, with grasslands growing in between. A number of these trees are shown on maps from the 1880s. These areas are important to migrating birds, who frequently make use of this tree cover, these layers of shrub and grassland, for rest, for foraging. It is listed as an “important bird habitat” as a result.

The location of the OPC, up against these sensitive nature areas, is a huge mistake. The height of this central tower, 235 feet, will be a hazard for migrating birds.

Recently, the City’s Department of Planning has released its Assessment of Effects. They completely omitted any mention of environmental impact, nor have they done an environmental impact study. This report is sorely lacking any acknowledgement of effects. We were informed there would be three possible scenarios: relocating it, scaling it back or mitigation. We have ended up with only one option – mitigation.

That could be simply putting up a sign, showing the park prior to the OPC. The AoE report goes on to say it is the city’s right to make these decisions. My complaint is that there was no public input on this.

It seems that opposition to this plan has only grown. Consider the opinions of Chicagoans who have not had an opportunity to be heard.

Ross Petersen