Horner Park Residents Fighting River Restoration Project That Calls For Removing Trees

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 11, 2013 8:00PM

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The Chicago River at Irving Park Road. (Photo credit: sictransitgloria)
Residents who live along the Chicago River near Horner Park are mounting opposition to a plan by the Chicago Park District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cut down scores of trees as part of an ecosystem restoration project that’s been in the works for years.

The 14-acre project includes nearly 2,600 feet of the riverbank stretching from Irving Park Road to Montrose Avenue along the west bank of the river with a goal of restoring the natural features of the river’s North Branch at Horner Park. Engineers say the project, when completed, will be more suitable for animal and plant life. The gradient of the bank along that stretch of the river varies from a gentle slope along the southern edge to near-vertical grades in others. They also plan to plant new trees that could reach heights of 50 feet within 25 years.

Residents are pissed the nearly $6.5 million project will require the Corps to remove the trees which includes indigenous species such as maples, honey locusts, elders, lindens and even oaks. They argue the trees help shield homes along the river from lights and baseball field dust from Horner Park.

"I personally think the end objective of the plan is excellent. I just think there must be a way to do it that doesn't sacrifice every tree on the bank," said Cynthia Chernoff, who lives on the east side, about 150 yards from the river. "They've been there for decades."

Pete Leki, a field ecology teacher who lives on the east side of the river, told DNAInfo Chicago the project was “a horrifying holocaust on the trees.” And here we thought Godwin’s Law wouldn’t be evoked.

Residents claim they were only informed of the plan recently but it’s been in the works since 2001. The plan was revealed in a May meeting of Horner Park’s advisory council and was met with skepticism then. Some residents hoped to use the southern edge of the project for a dog park but were informed the plan was “fast-tracked.” The Corps hopes to have a contractor chosen by the end of the month. Meanwhile an online petition has surfaced to gather signatures opposing the plan.

Opponents have planned a walk-through along the east bank of the river for Thursday.