WBEZ | Hegewisch Marsh http://www.wbez.org/tags/hegewisch-marsh Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Solar pump moistens marsh to beckon rare birds http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/solar-pump-moistens-marsh-beckon-rare-birds-107347 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/hegewsich-marsh-swan610p.jpg" title="A swan swims the open waters in Hegewisch Marsh, recently replenished by a solar-powered pump. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>Although Chicago was built from a swamp, wetlands remain only <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-04/hegewisch-past-and-present-97835" target="_blank">in the city&#39;s most remote corners</a>. <a href="http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/millennium-reserve/Pages/HegewischMarsh.aspx" target="_blank">Hegewisch Marsh</a> is a prime example of a <a href="http://web.extension.illinois.edu/illinoissteward/openarticle.cfm?ArticleID=479">hemi-marsh</a>, a mix of open water and stands of vegetation.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of the Calumet area used to be hemi-marshes, and there&rsquo;s not much of that habitat left,&rdquo; said Zhanna Yermakov, natural areas manager for the Chicago Park District, which acquired the 100-acre site from the Department of Environment when the city dissolved that department in 2011.</p><p>The Park District also found itself in control of a solar-powered pump that can draw water from the Little Calumet River to replenish a parched marsh during droughts. Though it was installed in 2008, the pump hadn&rsquo;t been turned on until this year. Now it could be part of a five-year restoration plan for this rare bird breeding ground.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/hegewsich-marsh-hunt610px.jpg" style="height: 197px; width: 305px; float: right;" title="Looking for frogs in Hegewisch Marsh. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />The ebb and flow of marsh water gives life to a unique&nbsp;ecosystem favored by migratory birds. During the late 1980s, a suite of rare birds &mdash; yellowheaded blackbirds, black terns, common gallinules and others &mdash; frequented northeastern Illinois marshes. Since then there have generally been declines in those species, while others that prefer open water or shallow wetlands, like pied-billed grebes and sandhill cranes, have increased.</p><p>Arriving on the sodden edge of the 29-acre marsh itself, U.S. Fish &amp; Wildlife Service&nbsp;Biologist Mike Redmer is visibly impressed.</p><p>&ldquo;The last time I saw the marsh with this much water was probably 1999,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Redmer is leading a small group through the wetland in search of frogs for <a href="http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/millennium-reserve/Pages/UrbanBiodiversityWeek.aspx" target="_blank">Urban Biodiversity Week</a>. They turn up empty-handed but for some tadpoles and a hatchling painted turtle, no bigger than a half-dollar when it retracts its limbs into its shell.</p><p>The pumps appear to have worked, but Yermakov cautions it&rsquo;s hard to know how much of the water is runoff.</p><p>&ldquo;We weren&rsquo;t even sure the pumps were going to be operational,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>And fine-tuning a natural area is no easy task.</p><p>&ldquo;Figuring out how to manage the system is not simple,&quot; Yerkakov said. &quot;These sites don&rsquo;t come with owner&rsquo;s manuals.&rdquo;</p><p>Several frog species were once abundant in Hegewisch Marsh. While they remain, all have become more difficult to find. Invasive species have ravaged habitat once home to uncommon amphibian species like wood frogs and spotted salamanders. One prevalent invader, buckthorn, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/buckthorn-draws-out-coyotes-cripples-native-frog-development-107271" target="_blank">even cripples developing frogs with a chemical it uses to set the table for its advance</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/keeping-aromatic-invader-bay-107163" target="_blank">As with many urban natural areas</a>, Hegewisch Marsh also has its issues with off-road vehicles and dirt bikes. Deep cuts from what look like either trucks or years of ATV traffic scar the marsh with bare beds in spots. But <a href="http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/millennium-reserve/Pages/HegewischMarsh.aspx" target="_blank">ongoing restoration efforts</a> have used federal dollars to convert the treaded ruts into corridors for amphibian habitat.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/hegewsich-marsh-trail-before-and-after-610px.jpg" title="Scars from off-road vehicle traffic, left, make fitting habitat for amphibians after restoration, right. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>Yellowheaded blackbirds and spotted salamanders may make for rare sightings in Hegewisch Marsh these days, but the urban wetland is still a refuge for threatened species, thanks to ongoing management. Time will tell if the Park District&rsquo;s restoration plan &mdash; an effort of the Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Natural Resources, and the Chicago-based nonprofit Wetlands Initiative &mdash; will strike the right balance. But if last week&rsquo;s dewy hemi-marsh is any indication, the new pump may be a valuable tool in their fight.</p><p><object height="458" width="610"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157633647673232%2Fshow%2Fwith%2F8798151283%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157633647673232%2Fwith%2F8798151283%2F&amp;set_id=72157633647673232&amp;jump_to=8798151283" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157633647673232%2Fshow%2Fwith%2F8798151283%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157633647673232%2Fwith%2F8798151283%2F&amp;set_id=72157633647673232&amp;jump_to=8798151283" height="458" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="610"></embed></object></p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 19:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/solar-pump-moistens-marsh-beckon-rare-birds-107347 Hegewisch Marsh, oasis of nature in industrial Southeast Chicago http://www.wbez.org/story/hegewisch-marsh-oasis-nature-industrial-southeast-chicago-87850 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-14/Volunteers help Hegewisch Marsh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago’s far Southeast Side evokes images of factories, abandoned industrial sites and blight. But few realize it’s also home to the city’s largest wetland.</p><p>Hegewisch Marsh is an oasis of trees, migratory birds and trails that’s undergoing extensive restoration. Some conservationists want to introduce everyone to this unique place.</p><p>It’s hard to understand exactly why Hegewisch Marsh is still around. It’s part of the Calumet region--a string of marshes, rivers and wooded areas that stretches from South Chicago to Gary. More specifically, it’s just south of the Ford Motor Plant at Torrence Avenue and 130th Street, east of a massive landfill near the Little Calumet River.</p><p>Conservationists are amazed the 130-acre marsh survived the industrial era, but on top of that, 20 years ago the city nearly turned it into an airport. But Hegewisch Marsh <em>did </em>survive … and there are people who say it’s a living time capsule.</p><p>Britt Willey is one of those.<br> <br> WILLEY: These are really special nature areas that you wouldn’t imagine are in the city limits. It’s within our urban confines. So, I was just talking to a few people earlier that had never been here and they were just amazed that you can just come here and feel like you’re in the Bayou or feel like you're in another country.<br> <br> Willey works for WRD Environmental … a consultant to Chicago’s Department of Environment. She helps restore native plants in the marsh. In fact, she joined volunteers to do that last weekend. Willey wants to remove invasive plants as well as decades-worth of pollution and trash.<br> <br> WILLEY: They’ll pull out appliances and tires and things like that. Come back a few weeks later and it’s still being dumped on.<br> <br> Willey says it’s common to find big chunks of slag. They look like black rocks, but are byproducts of the area’s abandoned steel industry. She shows me two heavy chucks of slag sticking out of the muddy marsh.<br> <br> WILLEY: So this is the contamination that’s dug out of the soil from the industrial deposits. I don’t exactly know the composition but I know there’s some heavy metals in there. And, it was at one point dumped into these wetland areas because there weren’t any regulations about industrial pollution, about where any of this should go. So, it was just dumped at the nearest open space.<br> <br> Fellow conservationist Amber Bixler helped develop a remediation plan for Hegewisch Marsh.<br> <br> BIXLER: Well, historically, the Calumet Region was one of the largest wetlands in the country and through industrialization and development of the area, it got seriously fragmented. But, as you can see, there are still a lot of remnant areas.<br> &nbsp;<br> Bixler wishes more people knew about the marsh.<br> <br> In her opinion, it’s worth preserving …</p><p>BIXLER: ... just to have natural areas, both for the wildlife and for the people to enjoy. You don’t even have to leave the city and you can come and see something like this. Which is great.</p><p><br> ATTERE: This is the representation of beautiful natural spaces within the city of Chicago.<br> <br> That’s Jerry Attere. He coordinates the <a href="http://chicagoconservationcorps.org/blog/">Calumet Initiative</a> to restore Hegewisch Marsh. It’s a restoration project that’s supposed to be finished next year.</p><p>Attere says, after that, Chicagoans need to remember the marsh exists, otherwise it might be lost, like so many others have been in Illinois.<br> <br> ATTERE: A lot of people think in terms of national parks, open spaces, you have to go to the Grand Canyon or that kind of thing, but no! You have nature in your backyard.<br> <br> And Attere says if you want evidence, you can go to Chicago’s Hegewisch Marsh… and see the coyote, beaver and muskrats for yourself.</p></p> Tue, 14 Jun 2011 21:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/hegewisch-marsh-oasis-nature-industrial-southeast-chicago-87850