North Pond Restoration Update: October 21, 2022 

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by Doug Widener

As we approach substantial completion of the North Pond Restoration Project next month, I’d like the final blog or two to focus on some common questions asked. I’ll start with a few most timely and frequent ones here. Please send others in the days and weeks to come to: and I will answer as many as I can in the coming weeks. Your questions and input have been vital to the project’s success. Thank you! 

Let’s start with the fencing. While many folks are happy that we are scaling back the fencing installed, many still ask why the fencing is needed and if it is permanent. The answer is a long one involving impacts and decisions made over time. Since its building in the late 1800’s as a part of Lincoln Park’s northward expansion, North Pond has been a treasured feature of Chicago’s largest park. Issues related to the pond’s shoreline and resultant erosion have been known for decades and are referenced in the 1995 Lincoln Park Framework Plan, which lays out long-term goals for the park. One goal was to stabilize North Pond’s crumbling and unstable shoreline through the planting of native plants. The plan goes further to designate North Pond and its environs as a wildlife/natural area. Efforts in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s helped further this intention through the extensive plantings around the pond and the designation of the pond as an official natural area by the Chicago Park District and City of Chicago. While these efforts helped, many areas of the pond weren’t planted and unmitigated visitor access over the past twenty years further compacted the shoreline soil. This continuous cycle of erosion and runoff contributed to the pond’s shallow depths and reduced water quality.

Any long-term solution to ensure North Pond’s health into the future needs to stabilize the shoreline and limit at least some access. As a designated natural area, the goal at North Pond has been to balance the needs and access of humans who love the pond with those of the native plants, animals and birds that rely on this natural respite. Without the fencing, the native plants planted (or soon to be planted) won’t be able to gain a foothold and grow, which will lead to the same problems identified in the framework plan nearly 30 years ago and that we are attempting to solve long-term. There are still many areas of the pond unfenced and intentional outcroppings and vistas from which visitors can enjoy this beautiful and vital natural area. So, is the fence staying? In short, yes. Over time, with our partners at the Chicago Park District, we will continue to assess the progress towards our goals and adapt as needed. This could include removing additional fencing down the road, but only if and when doing so doesn’t create the same issues the restoration fixed. Balancing competing uses and interests is a part of managing public land. We appreciate the feedback we’ve received and are scaling back fencing size and amount where we can. This balancing also means acting in the interest of species without voices (at least ones we can comprehend). It’s not a perfect science but rather an art. Stay tuned as the masterpiece unfolds in the months and years ahead.

In closing, and on a related note, many people have asked when we will be planting trees. Removing dead or dying trees was another necessary part of stabilizing the pond’s shoreline. While we all felt the loss, the result of the restoration will be a net gain of trees in the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. We are happy to report that over 70 new native trees including birch, oak, and alder (in addition to native plant plugs and shrubs) will be planted next spring to give these important additions to the North Pond Nature Sanctuary an entire growing season to establish and flourish. As with everything in nature, restoration takes time. We promise that the results will be worth the wait. Keep your questions coming and thank you for your continued support!




PS: And finally, the beaver. We are aware there is currently a beaver at North Pond that is destroying some trees. We are working with the Chicago Park District to safely remove it to a more appropriate habitat.

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