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Lincoln Park, Old Town

North Pond’s $7.3 Million Restoration Begins Thursday

Work to restore North Pond, a human-made structure that's long been drying up due to runoff sedimentation, begins Thursday and is expected to wrap in November.

The Chicago skyline is visible from North Pond in Lincoln Park on March 28, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — Work to restore the nearly 150-year-old North Pond in Lincoln Park from drying up begins Thursday.

The Lincoln Park Conservancy, which supports the Park District by raising money for ecological projects outside its budget, is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony for the North Pond project 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the overlook by the North Pond restaurant.

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

Credit: Screenshot
A rendering shows what North Pond will look like after its restoration.

Widener and leaders from project’s design and construction teams held a community meeting Wednesday night in which they briefed neighbors on what they can expect from the restoration.

The $7.3 million raised for the project will support its first two phases, which are expected to finish in November, Widener said. But the conservancy is still raising additional money to support a third and fourth phase of the project.

The first phase of restoration includes dredging the pond so a quarter of it will be 8 feet deep, said Jacob Blue, a landscape architect with SmithGroup, one of the project’s designers.

Other work will include lining the pond with 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. The polymer, which will need to be replaced every decade, should control about 70 percent of the water it’s losing.

Phase one also includes planting native plants and trees along the shorelines, installing under-drains in the park to help the pond capture stormwater, new aerators and an automated water management system, Widener said.

Credit: Screenshot
A map outlines all the work that will be done to restore Lincoln Park’s North Pond.
Credit: Screenshot
A map shows that 25 percent of the pond will be dredged to a depth of 8 feet.

In its second phase, which runs simultaneously to the first phase, the project will focus on installing park paths, additional lighting and another drinking fountain at the gazebo, Widener said. Crews will also remove excess asphalt around the gazebo to give it a more natural feeling.

If funding is secured for a third and fourth phase, crews will install a boardwalk at the northwest end of the pond, build a casting pier staircase, create an accessible boardwalk route to the casting pier and add bumper edges to the pier so it’s accessible to people with wheelchairs, Widener said.

Credit: Screenshot
Bumper edges could be added to the casting pier to make the structure more accessible.
Credit: Screenshot
The first two phases of North Pond’s restoration are fully funded, but the Lincoln Park Conservancy is still raising money to support the third and fourth phases.

The conservancy is trying 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,” according to the group. “The pond will always have areas that stay wet, even during the dredging process.”

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

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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