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Wetlands restoration work starts in frigid weather
Thursday, January 15, 2009 SouthtownStar by Jim Hook
drivers aren't the only heavy equipment operators maneuvering in this frigid
in Bobcats and backhoes this week are unearthing buckthorn, maple and other
nonnative trees from the frozen ground at a south suburban Cook County Forest
Preserve District site.
250-acre site is bound by Flossmoor Road on the south, Central Avenue on the
east, 183rd Street on the north and Ridgeland Avenue on the west.
unearthed trees are stacked in piles and burned to make room for the heavy
equipment to maneuver.
the wood also provides heat for the workers who brave darkness and sub-zero
a slow and deliberate process but one that must start now to keep the project
on course, preserve officials say.
it's completed in five years, the 250-acre site will be restored to natural
wetlands, something the area hasn't seen in decades.
all part of an ambitious wetlands restoration project undertaken by the
district, which hopes the project will return native birds and other wildlife
to the habitat.
the Bartel Grasslands Expansion, the $4.5 million project was born out of the
city of Chicago's need to relocate wetlands displaced by the expansion of
O'Hare International Airport.
Newhard, director of the county's department of resource management, said work
is starting now so as not to disturb the ground when the temperature warms and
the soil softens.
want as little disturbance as possible," he said.
said heavy-equipment operators in heated cabs will spend the next month
removing trees before the project's second phase can begin.
that phase, a herbicide will be applied to rid the area of unwanted grasses and
also will remove drain tiles installed by farmers decades ago who wanted water
directed away from their farmland.
want to restore hydrology to the site," Newhard said. "Doing that
will return the site to a wetlands, which will help bring back native birds,
insects and amphibians that once called this area home."
said the county was one of several agencies that requested money for wetlands
Army Corp of Engineers is providing the money for the projects.
area historically was a wetlands," Newhard said. "We're trying to
restore it to the way it once was."
said the project will be constantly monitored as it goes through its various
want to make sure the habitat is right for the species to return," he
sparrows and bobolinks left the site when farmers started plowing it decades
said that when the project is completed it also will serve as a great
"environmental education tool."
"This will be a great teaching tool for kids to
learn about wetlands," he said. "It's going to be exciting."