Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Outdoor Firing Range Slated for Environmentally Sensitive Area

Nestled between landfills and the Little Calumet River (just south of 134th street and east of the Bishop Ford) river are 130 plus acres of fenced off MWRD property.  And on this property exist two ponds preserved by the historic Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan: the O’Brien Lock and Dam Marsh and the Whitford Ponds. Both are known for their value as habitat for white egrets and blue herons, as well as other migratory bird species not commonly found in our backyards. But a recent proposal by the Chicago Police Department to develop a firing range on 33 acres adjacent to these ponds may drive the birds away, thus reducing an already-limited pool of nesting options for the Calumet area's marsh and wetland birds.

Never mind that the Calumet Land Use Plan, a momentous undertaking of the Department of Planning and Development partnered with the Department of the Environment, had recommended that the property be reclaimed as open space, or that the area is adjacent to TIF redevelopment areas, the Chicago Police Department is determined to locate a project on the Southeast side that other communities would not embrace.

On a recent tour of the property, members of SETF, CEPA, IDNR, DOE, Chicago Audubon Society and and other community organizations were given a presentation of the project by Sgt. Raymond Hamilton of the Chicago Police Department. While Sgt. Hamilton briefed us on the details, butterflies flittered through the wet prairie plants, egrets flew overhead criss-crossing the river and a spotted hawk glided effortlessly above us.

Ironically, the same attributes that make it a plausible site for the firing range make for an even better nature reserve.  And after visitng the site and  discovering the bird rookeries along the Whitford Pond area, learning that there hasn’t been a serious natural resource survey of the area in more than 15 years, and observing the wildlife thriving there,  SETF is convinced that the Police Department should consider an alternative site - like one of the many brown fields or vacant industrial properties that exisit in the city - instead of impacting an area where nature and wildlife have taken refuge.  While there are many location options for a gun range, the herons and egrets would have few choices for relocating, as isolated wetland areas with tall trees that are suitable for rookeries are far less common than brownfields.


EGRETS AND HERONS
View of O'Brien Pond from 134th Street
CURIOUS MOTHER DEER AND FAWN WITH CID LANDFILL IN BACKGROUND


VIEW OF MWRD PROPERTY
BIRDS OF A FEATHER...
WHITE EGRET AT O'BRIEN POND

ASSEMBLING FOR TOUR OF THE MWRD PROPERTY







1 comment:

  1. The egrets were "great egrets" the herons were "great blue herons" and the spotted hawk was a "red tailed hawk." Regardless of what we call them, everyone there, naturalists and nature enthusiasts alike, were awed by the grace and beauty of the wildlife in the area.

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