Chicago Botanic Garden and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Partner To Restore 1.25 Miles of Lake Shoreline

Gloria Ciaccio
(847) 835-6819, direct
gciaccio@chicagobotanic.org

Lynne Whelen
(312) 846-5330
Lynne.E.Whelen@usace.army.mil

Release Date: 
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GLENCOE, Ill. (Nov. 22, 2011) – The Chicago Botanic Garden and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Ecosystem Restoration Program have begun a ten-month Section 206 Ecosystem Restoration Project to restore 6,400 feet of shoreline at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s North Lake. The project area includes the entire perimeter of the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, as well as areas along the North Lake’s western and northern shoreline. 

Using innovative bioengineering techniques, the project will use native shoreline plants—some with roots more than six feet deep—that have been carefully chosen for their ability to anchor eroding shoreline soils and withstand environmental stresses inherent to urban waterways.  Representing 197 native taxa, these plants provide form and function throughout the year. Creative uses of interplanted stones and boulders, as well as specialized plastic mesh and webbing materials will further help to stabilize the shoreline edge and protect newly installed aquatic plantings.   Shoreline plants will also filter excess nutrients and enhance habitat for frogs, turtles, fish, mussels, aquatic insects, as well as resident and migratory birds. 

Beginning in November, the North Lake’s 150 million gallons of water were drained to facilitate re-grading of the shoreline and creation of shallow water planting shelves.  In the spring, more than 120,000 native plants and shrubs will be added to stabilize shoreline soils. Plants will be installed in drifts to demonstrate how native shoreline plantings can be attractively integrated within more traditional ornamental landscapes.  

When completed in fall 2012, 4.4 miles, or more than three-fourths of the Garden’s shoreline, will have been restored. Shoreline restoration began in 1999 on the Garden’s 60-acre system of interconnected lakes. The Garden’s programs to reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff have a positive impact on water quality in the downstream Skokie Lagoons and Chicago River and well beyond.

 “The Garden’s commitment to environmental stewardship extends to our waters and includes the whole ecosystem. This restoration project will serve as a living laboratory for Garden conservation scientists and their colleagues studying urban water resources. We believe that this is a sustainable, long-term solution,” said Sophia Shaw, president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden. “The Garden’s lake-water levels can rise up to five feet after significant storms, and this project’s native plantings can withstand such flood-induced extremes.” 

"The Army Corps of Engineers team is pleased to be a part of this project to restore a significant portion of the shoreline at the world-renowned Chicago Botanic Garden. This project is an excellent example of using innovative technologies to restore, maintain, and protect our natural areas, and it provides a unique opportunity for the public to view first-hand how these environmental improvements are constructed and maintained,” said Col. Frederic Drummond of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Funding for the North Lake Shoreline Restoration Project has been accomplished through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Section 206 Ecosystem Restoration Program; the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and private donors. 

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