"It's one of the most unique regions in the U.S. with so much ecological viability in the middle of a heavily utilized area."
UIC geography professor James Landing made this statement about the Lake Calumet region, as quoted in the Sunday, June 16, 2002
Chicago Tribune article "Lake Calumet Plan Making New Waves" by Julie Deardorff.
The Calumet Region in the City of Chicago presently contains approximately 4,800 acres of open lands, including 700 acres of Lake Calumet
itself (including approximately three miles of shoreline currently closed to public access); approximately 20 miles of waterways including the
Calumet, Little, and Grand Calumet Rivers; Wolf Lake; and, various smaller lakes and ponds. The region also holds about 2,000 acres of
abandoned industrial lands 60% of Chicago's vacant industrial property.
Historically, the region has experienced some of the heaviest concentrations of industry in the Midwest. In the process it has lost thousands of
acres of lakes and wetlands that have been filled in with construction waste, steel mill slag, municipal garbage, and hazardous waste.
Landfilling has reduced Lake Calumet to approximately
half the size it was before 1900, yet it remains Chicago's
largest lake. The lake is home to dozens of shorebirds and
waterfowl, including several threatened
and endangered species. Still, many residents and visitors
don't realize this treasure even exists.
When the Illinois International Port District built the Harborside
International Golf Course on the northwest shore of the lake,
general public access to the entire shore was cut-off through
the construction of a razor wire topped fence. Views of the
lake from the Bishop Ford freeway have been eliminated due
to the construction of a berm along the western shore.
Forming a Vision
In response to the City's
Calumet Area Land Use Plan SETF gathered partners to form
the Lake Calumet Vision Committee in March, 2003. Member organizations
to date include:
Through the work of this committee, and with the endorsement of these member organizations, the partners formulated a Lake Calumet Vision Document detailing the desired uses for the waters and shores of the lake.
- Openlands Project
- Sierra Club- Illinois Chapter
- Bird Conservation Network
- Historic Pullman Foundation
- Vet's Park Improvement Assn.
- Lake Michigan Federation
- Friends of the Parks
- Pullman Civic Organization
- Peace Pipe Prairie Project
- Calumet Ecological Park Assn.
Lake Calumet Vision Map
Click image to enlarge.
- North turning basin: open water used for
non-motorized recreational watercraft.
- Western peninsula: proposed public recreational
area with picnicking and fishing lagoon.
- Southwestern shore: restored wildlife habitat.
- Northern slip: proposed wooded camping area.
- Floating bicycle bridge: to connect western Calumet with eastern Calumet and protect watercraft in north basin.
The Southeast Side is home to Chicago's "other" river system, the Calumet. Historically known for its industrial and shipping use, the Calumet River system is getting more attention for its recreational and open space value.
The system includes the Calumet River, Little Calumet River, Grand Calumet River, and Cal-Sag Channel. Click here to learn about our
Calumet River Corridor Vision.
An in depth water quality and habitat study, called a Use Attainability Analysis (UAA), is currently under way by the Illinois EPA. The UAA will be used to determine new water pollution standards.
Click here for more about the study.
Click here to learn more about the river system.
|Land Use and Redevelopment
The Southeast Side of Chicago had been the City's major garbage receptacle since the 1970's. Today, the region is at a monumental point is its environmental history.
For the first time in decades, there is no garbage disposal is taking place within the City limits. Waste Management (WM), Inc's CID Site at 134th street and the Calumet River,
which is the last active landfill in the City, stopped accepting municipal garbage as of January 2004. This is due to a City landfill moratorium that prevents the spread of any new or horizontally expanded landfills.
Unfortunately for neighboring residents, this may just be a pause in dumping if new negotiations between WM and the City Department of Planning are carried out.
The moratorium is threatened by a deal with WM to dump six million tons on top of the 28 million tons already on the site.
Pictured (right) is a view of the WM Landfill from Hegewisch Marsh looking across the Calumet River. The marsh is the future home of the
Ford Calumet Environmental Center, slated to bring over 100,000 visitors per year to the region.
Click here to read a history of landfilling in the Calumet region compiled by local high school students.
For the last 8 years, SETF has sat at the table with U.S. EPA and City of Chicago to work collaboratively toward a common goal of cleaning up this potential Superfund site.
Click here for more information on the Cluster Sites.
At one point, this illegal landfill was in danger of slumping across Stony Island Avenue.
Click here for more information on the Paxton Landfill.
Dumping on vacant properties and roadsides in the Calumet area is a major problem.
Not only does it look bad, it also attracts insects and animals that carry diseases.
SETF has initiated the Pollution Watchdog Committee to find illegal dumping sites and report them to the City.
The 10th Ward Streets and Sanitation Department does an outstanding job responding to calls and cleaning up dump sites quickly.
Click here to learn more about the Chicago Department of Environment's Enforcement program.
Click here to report illegal dumping activity online.