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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Lincoln Park’s $7.3 Million North Pond Restoration Starts This Month. Here’s What To Expect

The North Pond, which has been drying up for years, will be dredged up and coated with a polymer that will prevent water from leaking into the ground.

North Pond in Lincoln Park on March 28, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — Restoration of the nearly 150-year-old North Pond in Lincoln Park, which has been drying up for years, will begin this month as workers prepare to dredge it and reduce its reliance on pumped-in city water.

The Lincoln Park Conservancy, which supports the Park District by raising money for ecological projects outside its budget, announced Thursday it had raised the $7.3 million needed for the pond’s restoration. Work will begin later this month.

North Pond, 2610 N. Cannon Drive, is a human-made structure that’s become home to more than 250 migratory bird species and about a dozen threatened or endangered species since it was built in the mid-1880s, said Doug Widener, executive director of the Lincoln Park Conservancy.

But the pond has been drying up from excess erosion, and the waterway is only 2 feet deep at its lowest points, Widener previously told Block Club. Additionally, the runoff of sedimentation brings nutrients into the water that exacerbate problems with excessive algae and evaporation.

“The pond’s days are numbered” without the changes, Widener said.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Cardinals are among the hundreds of bird species that call the North Pond home.

Throughout the pond’s restoration, neighbors can expect to see fences installed along the waterway, according to the conservancy.

The group is hosting a virtual public meeting 6-7 p.m. April 20 to answer neighbors’ and supporters’ questions about the project. Online registration is open.

Work will include dredging the sedimentation and putting in plants that will filter nutrients, Widener said. A quarter of the pond will be dredged to a depth of 8 feet, while other parts will be kept shallow or at varying depths to maintain the area’s biodiversity.

The pond doesn’t have any natural inlets to replenish water, so the Park District uses a spout at the edge of the pond to refill it with city water when it gets too shallow. The treated city water has fluoride and other additives that can be harmful for aquatic wildlife and is a wasteful use of city water, Widener said.

The restoration plans will limit the pond’s reliance on city water by spraying a non-toxic polymer that will bond with sediment at the bottom, forming a natural barrier to prevent water from leaking into the ground below, Widener said.

Widener said the polymer, which will need to be replaced every decade, should control about 70 percent of the water it’s losing. Another 10-15 percent of the water will be conserved through drains that filter rainfall back into the pond.

“We’d love to eliminate or definitely reduce the amount of city water that goes in so this place can be more sustainable,” Widener said.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
The North Pond is not a natural structure, and was constructed in the mid 1880s.

The conservancy is making efforts to limit the construction’s impact on local species. The group consulted with the Chicago Ornithological Society to identify potential nesting sites and is working with the Park District and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to make sure turtles and other sensitive species are taken care of during the restoration.

“As the project moves forward, the conservancy will employ an adaptive management strategy with the health and safety of wildlife as a top priority,” the group stated. “The pond will always have areas that stay wet, even during the dredging process.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Chicago skyline is visible from North Pond in Lincoln Park on March 28, 2022.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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