Jackson Park Nature and Natural Areas

http://www.jacksonparkadvisorycouncil.org. Bobolink Meadow Volunteer Newsletter or bluestem.info/bobolink
In hydepark.org: return to Jackson Park Home. Wooded Island. Bobolink Meadow and bluestem.info/bobolink. Dogs and WI, natural areas. Lagoons and subpages. Old Oak. A Wooded Island Walk and to photos. Wooded Island Rehabilitation Plan templates.

Don't forget our workdays- Regular ones in nature areas are Bobolink 2nd Saturdays 9-12, meet in the Golf Driving Range parking lot off 63rd St., and Wooded Island 4th Saturdays 10-1 meet at Darrow Bridge. Stewards: parrybell@ameritech.net (Norman Bell, Bobolink) and sjlevy@jeromelevylaw.com (Jerry Levy, Wooded I). Louise McCurry is steward for the LaRabida-Harbors area. A steward would be welcome for 63rd beach and dune (where at much expense lots of plants were put in and some landforms re-sculpted) and northward.
There are many specials including April 26 2014 Earth Day morning, which will include tree planting.
JPAC is grateful for the many naturalist and service organizations, schools, and corporations that help with the workdays and with planning in the natural areas.

Nature/Nature Areas program, news and issues. Army Corps plan 2014

Changes, plantings, removals to maintain or improve the habitat of the wildlife areas of the park will always be sensitive matters and often lead to disagreements, even among experts. Wooded Island has especially been given much thought by the Wooded Island Working Group, resulting in a Wooded Island Rehabilitation Plan. A balanced, careful, phased and strategic approach that includes transitions that support wildlife in the short and long runs and provides a three-dimensional tiered space and ensures that the vegetation does not reach its end of life all at the same time is encouraged in the Wooded Island Restoration Plan and the Bobolink plan. Meshing natural maintenance with Frederick Olmsted's plantings and vision, which is also mandated, sometimes creates dilemmas, as can managing the tree population -- variety vs oak savannah vs Olmsted choices and natives vs benign non-natives when both are wildlife-supportive. Another issue is how much deadwood should be left for wildlife and to replenish the soil.

There has been wide agreement on the plants that should present and assisted in Wooded Island natural areas and Bobolink meadow and woods, but sometimes disagreement of the damage by certain species, especially beavers. Should dogs be totally excluded? There remain disagreements over what should be in areas near but not designated natural areas, such as the Darrow Bridge-Columbia Basin (except to keep the ancient oaks) and Music Court shore, such as extensive recent plantings of ornamental cherries that some consider monoculture and that may or may not be as friendly to wildlife as the uncontrolled growth that preceded in some sections. Over the last several years, there have been places and episodes where consensus would say, especially on Wooded Island there was either over clearing (or some say incompetent clearing) or overgrowth. And disagreement whether drops and surges in bird and other wildlife sightings is related to natural areas management/ mismanagement and visions of restoration or not. And there is the question of what place there should be for certain wildlife that cause great and sudden damage, such as beavers. Certainly the Park District, the PAC stewards, and thousands of volunteers have planned or worked for a good habitat with diligence, care and good will.

One interesting program that concluded in 2013 was a tree inventory in Wooded Island and Bobolink overseen by stewards Jerry Levy, Norman Bell and Gail Perry with Openlands, federal forestry agencies, and the park district. To the Tree Inventory interactive website- http://openlands.org/openlands_gis/html/Community_Greening/TreeInventories/Jackson_Park/WoodedIsland_
Follow the instructions above the legend to utilize the map features.
This and the micro-clearings that created enough sun-openings for still-alive oak roots and still-viable acorns to sprout led to a new project to identify, flag, and protect with small fencing volunteer oak saplings that give hope for the survival of the oak savannah habitat that is thought to be the default habitat on the island at least through the last millennium or so.
In 2012 the main work was done on reestablishment of a tallgrass meadow/quasi prairie in the one time "rose garden" which bloomed like mad in 2013 and on a series of accessible woodchip trails and sidings through the heart of the Island, with signage, to match that of Bobolink. Hope is to complete in 2014 a bridging trail along the south edge of the lagoon to join that on the Island with the overlook and the Bobolink trails. Informational interactive brochures and activity sheets are in place, as is much signage/identifiers (more are sought) and numerous nature and history tours are being given. Phased clearing and replanting in small areas such as south of the Japanese Garden are contemplated in recent years.

So what's happening in 2014, besides planting and removal of garlic mustard etc.?
About the ARMY CORPS PLAN, SECTION 506 OF THE GREAT LAKES FISHERY AND ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION. for habitat restoration and improvements in limited sectors of the park: (Note, this plan was vetted at a stakeholders meeting (including naturalist groups) at Friends of the Parks November 18, 2013. The project is being overseen by Patricia O'Donnell of Heritage Landscapes. As a result of review by O'Donnell and Park District historic and naturalist experts, the project has been finalized and follows and restores the Olmsted template (plan).

Note, one of the purposes is to, without interfering with Olmsted's template, expand the oases for nature, such as the shores of the Music Court north and east of the lagoons, and in and on the shores of the lagoons, edges of the harbors, along paths and trails, golf driving range area, and spots in the golf course. See also after the ACE discussion.

Schedule as known to us at present is that work begins this summer (2014), at the small beach and fishing station on the west shore of the Inner Harbor south of Southern Shore Yacht Club.)

From minutes of the May 13 JPAC meeting:

Presentation: Mitchell Murdock of Chicago Park District Natural Resources, Julia Bachrach of CPD planning/history, and a representative of the US Army Corps of Engineering presented and sought input on the early stages of planning of historic, landscape, and sound ecological and habitat planning and restoration improvements in the park, designated Section 506 Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER). The CPD and ACE have partially-overlapping but somewhat different mandates, and they are evaluating, with public input, whether there will be a partnered set of projects for the park that could cost up to $10 million. (Note any Lakeshore work is excluded as that is controlled by a separate federally-designated ongoing program for the entire lakeshore.) Principles were set forth, with the park district stressing the historic integrity of the park including Olmsted's vision of vistas, elegant but concealed design, stress on relaxation and enjoyment of the sublime and beautiful—the genius of the place, subordination of details to the whole, avoidance of mere novelty, grouping of plants including an abundant understory and layering, tempered by good habitat in the appropriate/ designated parts of the park. Noted was that Olmsted’s park designs were quite open. The Army Corp stresses ecology including sound lagoon management and habitat. The review of the history and changes in the park over the decades and the distinct types of habitat and landscape in the park was especially helpful. The Olmsted Center has expressed an interest in providing technical advice.

The next opportunity for public input will be at the next meeting, including a mapping exercise and discussion of specific areas or vistas people would like to see restored or enhanced. This will still be ahead of the start of official feasibility and project-discovery exploration. Ongoing public input is promised early and during the entire development and implementation of the project, should one be approved.
Dwight Powell moved, 2nd Esther Schechter and approved for the Park District and Army Corps to continue exploration and planning toward a Section 506 project.

From minutes of the June 10 2013 JPAC meeting:

Park improvement potential planning/project. Mitchell Murdock, Park District Natural Areas Manager, and Julia Bachrach, Park District Planner and historian gave an update and sought more input on a potential Park District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project under Federal designation 506. It is still in exploration as to whether there is a project (a federal interest or FID); work would not begin for 3-5 years. Any work includes 5 years of warranty/maintenance. The parties want to ensure public input from the onset about the park and particularly any restorations or enhancements to habitat (the ACE interest) and or landscape and historic views and features. If the project lacks public support, it would disappear, and no ACE funding would mean no project by the Park District. Large areas of the park are under consideration, but anything recreational, institutional, or along the lakeshore is excluded. The parties are concerned that any other projects such as cherry tree plantings mesh with this and be park-suitable. They are especially interested in where shrubbery could be expanded or replaced, the presence and health of particular kinds of habitat where called for, and with the lagoons, including maybe recreating islands that used to be there. Presenters will meet next with fishers.

Attendees gave insights and concerns on particular places and changes that might be sound or avoided. They gathered around and wrote ideas on a large map-- noting sections of the park they thought degraded or unattended, or that they especially liked and wanted to make sure are preserved. Examples:

-Improve landscaping and maintenance between the outer and inner harbors north of Marquette Drive;
-Improve along Marquette Drive Coast Guard to Cornell drives and north on Cornell (excepting the already kept up Growing Power garden)- including fixing or providing trails/walks and plant more trees;
-Between Cornell Dive and the West Lagoon—have more shrubbery etc. to reduce noise and roadway/city views; improve vistas and habitat without creating unwanted hiding places;
-Improve around the north bridge to Wooded Island (some were leery of too much work here);
-Be careful about large areas of monocultures especially of ornamental trees;
-Maybe create a few small openings to the Island lagoon edge to create optimal vista points (some opposed this-said people have vistas at the Japanese Garden);
-Ensure any reconstructed islands in the lagoon can be sustained and provide optimal habitat for frogs, turtles and other amphibians and that netting for plant establishment not damage birds; ditto lagoon shore plantings;
-Consider the needs of birds and other wildlife and lean towards more vegetation rather than less.

Expanding oases that are friendly to wildlife is an important shared goal, especially in light of Chicago Wilderness and other planning to expand wildlife-friendliness and friendly areas and start to connect them throughout the South Side and south-southeast-southwest suburbs and Northwest Indiana. Louise McCurry, with lots of large groups of youth and adults and the park district, has largely succeeded in creating respites for wildlife as well as for families and patients-caregivers along the shore of La Rabida Children's Hospital and the Outer Harbor east and south shores by the Jackson Park Yacht Club. Birds are back thanks to the clearing. JPAC hopes this can grow and more areas found.