Q:  How has the plan been adjusted to address public comments about the design for the Horner Park project?

A:   See the Project Map for the current plan.

  • Three additional woodchip trails have been added for a total of seven access points.  These trails provide both recreational use of the restored habitat and protection for the site.  
  • In order to more clearly describe the rest of the project features, the Corps has broken the project into three zones (see Project Map). 
    • Zone 1 includes the project area from the existing fence, east to the riverbank. These sections are depicted in the Project Map as areas A and B.  Within areas A and B, totaling almost 20 percent of the riverbank, the Corps will selectively remove the invasive species along the river but will retain sections inhabited by mature native trees that represent the type of habitat that will establish throughout Zones 1 and 2 in future years.
    • Zone 2 includes the project area between the fence and the top of the regraded bank.  There are trees along the fence line that will be removed due to the change in grade and slope structure.  However, in this zone, 42 trees will be removed, rather than the approximately 52 in the original plan.  As in Zone 1, the project will replace non-native invasive vegetation (including both trees and other plant types) with native plant species.
    • Zone 3 includes the project area between the top of the regraded bank and the western project limit.  One hundred eighty-nine trees currently exist within this area.  Under the new plan, no trees will be removed within this zone, except for a possible one to five trees that may need to be removed for a staging area along Irving Park Road.  The staging area will be sited with Chicago Park District (CPD) participation, and with a goal of no tree removal.  The Corps will label the trees being saved to serve as a reminder that retaining as many trees as possible is an important priority.  Please keep in mind that any trees inadvertently damaged by the contractor in Zone 3 will be replaced.
  • The mowed grass buffer area east of the concrete path has been extended from eight feet to 10 feet, to better allow for existing park uses, while still providing significant restoration benefits.
  • It is likely that the existing trees in Zone 3 will continue to help alleviate impacts from the ball field lights. The CPD is working to identify methods to address this concern. 

Q:  What are the ecological benefits of this project?

A:  This project would aid in reconnecting sustainable habitat along the Chicago River by supporting the multitude of Chicago River restoration projects, which shows not only local, but regional importance.

This project would increase the quantity of higher quality aquatic and riparian habitats to enrich wildlife migration corridors.

The western shoreline of Lake Michigan is a globally significant portion of the North American flyway, especially for a significant portion of the neo-tropic migrants (estimated at 5 million birds). The shoreline has insufficient cover and habitat for maintaining prey species -  primarily insects, frogs and small mammals along the metro shoreline-  making projects like Horner Park critical for migratory birds for forage and shelter.

This project favors many ecological and economically valuable waterfowl species.

This project would reduce the adverse effects of invasive plant and some animal species.

This project would create opportunities for public education of the historic and present Chicago River ecosystem.

Q:   Why do we need this project?

A: Ecosystem restoration is the process of assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed and focuses on establishing the ecological processes necessary to make terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems sustainable, resilient, and healthy under current and future conditions. The CPD approached the Corps in response to park users’ concerns about the condition of the river bank and adjacent parkland. The Corps study process identified problems that included the unnatural steepness of the bank, abundance of invasive species, lack of native herbaceous ground cover, lack of native shrub cover and resultant poor-quality wildlife habitat (lack of native herbaceous and native shrub layer). Current conditions of the river bank make it difficult to establish a native riparian community because of the steepness of the bank. The steepness of the bank, coupled with low coverage of herbaceous vegetation, allows for significant areas of bare dirt that is subject to higher rates of erosion than would naturally occur under higher coverage of herbaceous vegetation. In order to reestablish a diverse, high-functioning, higher quality riparian wildlife habitat, decreasing the steepness of the grade of the banks, along with removing invasive species and planting native herbaceous, shrub and tree species more suited to wildlife resource requirements is required.

Q:   Why do riverbank trees need to removed?

A:   The proposed Horner Park’s ecosystem restoration plan is to restore a diverse, high-quality, sustainable and resilient native ecosystem. The natural condition of Horner Park was marshland with very little or no trees before the Chicago River was deepened and channelized. The majority of the species on the river bank are considered invasive (weedy) and/or non-native when considering the native ecological integrity of the site.  Some trees will also be removed as part of the regrading plan for the project, where the slope of the riverbank will be softened.  Removal will also allow for additional sunlight to reach the new plantings.

Q:   What problems are being addressed on the site?

A:  Currently, the heavy density of the non-native shrubs and aggressive native trees on the west riverbank at Horner Park have limited coverage of herbaceous vegetation, and those species that are most abundant are non-native. The Corps has made every effort to reevaluate the extent of regrading that would necessitate removal of the riparian trees.

This project will provide improved habitat for resident and migratory wildlife. By removing the understory of invasive European Buckthorn and the larger native but aggressive trees such as Silver Maple and Green Ash, the canopy opens up to allow a highly diverse herbaceous understory to develop, assisted by the installation of native seeds and young plantings. In addition, pulling back the riverbanks increases the connection of the riparian zone to the Chicago River, thereby allowing greater use by reptiles and amphibians.

Q: Is this a water quality improvement project?

A:  No. The primary purpose of this project is ecosystem restoration.

Q:  Will this project reduce erosion?

A:  Yes.  The current steepness of the bank, coupled with low coverage of herbaceous vegetation, allows for significant areas of bare dirt subject to higher rates of erosion than would naturally occur under higher coverage of herbaceous vegetation.  The project will address these problems and help to reduce erosion.

Q: What are the alternatives to eliminating riverbank trees to accomplish project goals?

A:  This project is focused on improving the native plant community and providing a higher quality wildlife habitat within Horner Park. In order to address the problems that have been identified, modifying the grade of the river bank is necessary. The process of regrading the riverbank requires the removal of the current vegetation within the foot print of the regrading efforts.  Regrading requires excavation of soil to attain a new elevation. In the process of attaining the new elevation, all vegetation residing within the excavated soil would be removed.   The Corps has made every effort to reevaluate the extent of regrading that would necessitate removal of riparian trees.

Q:  Will herbicide be used as part of the restoration?

A:  Some herbicide use will be necessary for the project, but will be limited only to the control of plant species that are known to harm newly establishing and existing native plant communities.  Any necessary herbicide application will be performed by state-licensed individuals with experience working adjacent to sensitive native plants.  Herbicides will be selectively applied at close range through backpack sprayers or hand-held spray bottles, directly onto targeted individual plants.  This method will greatly minimize harm to surrounding native plants, as well as limit the amount of herbicide that is used.  In addition, herbicides would be applied in full compliance with recommended methods on the EPA-approved label instructions for that particular herbicide.

Q:  How many new trees will be planted upland, and on the riverbank?

A:  Approximately 282 shrubs and 128 trees will be planted within the riparian area.  Approximately 12 trees will be planted in the upland Oak Savanna.

Q:  How will this project affect the black-crown Night-heron, an Illinois Endangered species?

A:  The State of Illinois has concurred with the Corps’ determination that there would be no adverse affects to Black-crown Night-heron or any threatened/endangered species, and anticipated benefits are expected from the proposed ecosystem restoration project. This letter dated Nov. 22, 2010 was provided prior to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Public Review circulation.

Q:  What will happen to the Chicago Park District designated Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary and Nature Area?

A:  The intent of the CPD with help from the Corps is to restore this area so that a Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary and Nature Area can come to fruition. Biologically, the area is not a healthy or diverse plant community, nor a Natural Area. The removal of invasive, and some noxious plants species, would be replaced with those species that butterflies can use as a food source, such as the butterfly weeds, which currently do not exist at the site.


Q:  What opportunities have there been for public comment on this project?

A:  The Corps, along with CPD, attended four public meetings led by the Horner Park Advisory Council (HPAC) to discuss the project features and collect public input.  More recent meeting dates were May 6, 2013, July 23, 2013 and Sept. 9, 2013, providing full disclosure of the project plans.  The Corps met with HPAC during the Feasibility Phase, Nov. 1, 2010, to present the plan in a more conceptual form. Contact with HPAC was maintained.

Aside from the 30-day Illinois Department of Natural Resources public notice period that ended on Sept.13, 2013, there were two additional public input periods on the Horner Park project.  There was a NEPA scoping period from Oct. 28, 2010-Dec.1, 2010.  Notification was sent out to a list of federal, state and local agencies that the Corps in cooperation with CPD were initiating an ecosystem restoration project at Horner Park (and two other parks that were later removed from the scope of work), asking for public/agency input and response. The Corps received comments from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (no objection), the Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Agency, and two tribes: Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and the Kickapoo Tribe.

On Sept.7, 2012, the draft final Detailed Project Report (DPR), integrated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) were placed on the Chicago District  website for public review and comment.  The pertinent resource agencies were notified that the report was available and given 30 days to comment. Congressional representatives were mailed a CD with the documents. The local sponsor, CPD, was also notified.  A 30-day public review period was initiated on Sept. 7, 2012, for the EA.  No public comments were received for the public review of the EA. A FONSI was signed on Jan. 24, 2013. The EA addressed the removal of the trees, and described it as the removal of invasive species trees, the preservation of native trees, and opening up the understory for light to allow for better habitat.

The Corps participated in a public walkthrough of both the east and west sides of the Chicago River near Horner Park on Sept. 12, 2013, which was followed by a public meeting with residents, as well as state and local officials.  During the walkthrough and the meeting, Chicago District Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr., the Corps project team members and CPD answered questions about the project, and collected additional input from the public.  That input was incorporated into a number of changes that were communicated to both Alderman Pawar and Alderman Mell in letters dated Sept. 17, 2013, for their dissemination to the public.


Q: What is the project schedule?

A: The contract will be funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

The anticipated construction schedule follows:

Contract award                                    Sep-2013

Notice to proceed                                Nov-2013

Construction starts                              Feb-2014

Clearing and grubbing complete         Mar-2014

Earthwork complete                             May-2014

Material Haul-off disposal complete    Jun-2014

Riparian habitat complete                    Sep-2018

Monitoring of vegetation                      5 years (after project turnover)