The land in
question, totaling around 39 acres right now, is located directed across
11th Street from the entrance to Westchester Intermediate School. The next
time you pass WIS, look for the sign posted by the Parks Foundation
announcing the future site of the bird sanctuary.
Parks Foundation hopes to own as many as 50 or 60 acres. In any event, the
organization began purchasing the land in 2001 with the specific mission of
restoring it to usable habitat.
part is key, Cole told the council, because at the moment the land is a
veritable “wasteland.” Back in the day, when 11th Street was just a dirt
road with a dead end half a mile south of West Porter Ave., folks used to
dump stuff in the wetland. Calling it a wetland now is something of an act
of wishful thinking, as there are no birds, no reptiles, no amphibians, no
animals of any sort, as “nothing can grow there that is of any nutritional
value to wildlife,” Cole said.
But, he added, “if
we can clear it, deepen it, put in some ponds, wildlife will return. And
birders will come from miles away to see the birds.”
Matt Keiser of
Abonmarche, working for the Parks Foundation, told the council that the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to conduct a formal wetland delineation
of the site next month. In the meantime, a topographic survey and conceptual
layout have been completed.
Among the features
of the design would be three artificial ponds with sloping bottoms whose
water levels would be regulated. Migrating birds would see the ponds from
the air and recognize them as sources of food. “We can attract different
types of birds at different seasons,” Keiser said.
Also: the Parks
Foundation is looking to acquire some non-wetland acreage to use for
off-street parking to make the site easily accessible.
So far, the Parks
Foundation has had “amazing support” for the project, Cole said, from state
and federal agencies and from environmental organizations as well, including
the Northwest Indiana Migratory Bird Association, the Shirley Heinze Land
Trust, and the Indiana Audubon Society.
Maxey made it clear
that the Parks Foundation is not looking for “financial support”
liked the idea. A lot.
“It’s just such a
refreshing project,” said Member Sharon Darnell, D-4th.
“I think it’s a
great idea,” agreed Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd.
The council did
specifically act in two ways: it voted 5-0 formally to endorse the idea of
restoring the wetland and making it a migratory shorebird sanctuary. And it
appointed Member Jim Ton, R-1st, to serve as the town’s liaison with the
“We want to follow
all the town regulations,” Maxey emphasized, “to make this a