2016 Merit Award
Chicago Park District; Chicago Department of Transportation
In need of neighborhood open space, the community advocated for the creation of a nature preserve that would restore degraded wetlands and riparian woods, improve pedestrian access and connectivity, and establish a framework for community education and outreach. The Chicago Park District commissioned Hitchcock Design Group to lead a multi-disciplinary team which included experts in ecology, stormwater, and engineering for the design of the nature preserve. Located adjacent to a cemetery, the 20-acre site was previously neglected and used as a dumping ground for grave spoils. Despite its history, the site became a haven for wildlife and migratory birds.
The site improvements necessary to restore this space as a nature reserve required extensive permitting to protect existing wetlands and adhere to local stormwater requirements. Hitchcock Design Group led the design team to secure permits with the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago.
Prior to the restoration, the adjacent cemetery cut several acres of adjacent woodlands, damaging the ecological value of the site, but also emboldening community activists who demanded efforts be taken to preserve this urban wildlife sanctuary. As part of the project process, and through a partnership with the cemetery, the existing pond on site was dredged, removing tons of muck. The extensive shoreline restoration and subsequent improved water quality of the pond resulted in the creation of an urban fishing haven beloved by the local community. New continuous paths weave through the riparian woodland, giving a wide berth to existing trees and archaeologically sensitive sites. Invasive tree and shrub species were cleared, and dead or hazardous trees were removed. Selective dead trunks, limbs, and fallen trees were retained for wildlife habitat, called “snags,” which create shelter and foraging opportunities for numerous species, including woodpeckers, beetle larvae, and other insects. The West Ridge Nature Preserve is a welcome refuge for the local community looking to replace the hustle of urban life for the respite of an urban wildlife sanctuary.
Primera Engineers; McCluskey Engineering; F.H. Paschen; Cardno JFNew