No, that’s not the fencing for the dog park that went up last week in the southeast corner of Horner Park along Irving Park Rd. It’s just the next phase of the $6.2 million Riverfront Restoration Project currently underway by the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) and the Chicago Park District.
Phase one, which began earlier this year, should be completed next week. It involved fencing off the entire eastern end of the park and removing most of the trees along the lower shoreline. Heavy construction equipment was then brought in to cut back the steep embankment and re-grade it to a more gentle 3:1 slope. This was done to prevent erosion and ultimately provide access to park patrons. You may have noticed the parade of trucks all summer long that removed hundreds of loads of soil and debris from the site.
Once the shoreline restoration was completed, the USACE began constructing several new amenities. These included a flagstone stairway and canoe disembarkation area just south of the Montrose Ave bridge, a new jogging path along the top of the slope that extends from that bridge all the way to the park entrance at California Ave and Irving Park Rd, a stunning new walking path down along the water’s edge, and two vernal pools that collect water from several river front springs and send it cascading down a bed of cobblestone rock.
The next phase which is still underway involves the elimination of all invasive plant species within the shoreline construction zone as well as grass in the upland area recently fenced along Irving Park Rd. Once the current vegetation is gone, an aggressive planting program will begin in late October. Thousands of native prairie “plugs” will be planted in the two areas as well as replacement trees along the shoreline.
The good news is that the final results as shown in the photos are beautiful and will provide Horner Park patrons for generations to come with a great restoration initiative, easy access to the water and some of the best amenities available in any riverfront park. The bad news is that the new native plantings take a very long time to establish and don’t fare well under typical park usage. Consequently, those construction fences will probably remain up for several years or more while the plants and trees stabilize. So while we have some great new amenities coming to Horner Park, at this point all we can do is watch and wait.