One of the more hideous features of the Illinois International Port District (IIPD) property at Lake Calumet is the tall, concertina-wire fence that encircles this once-popular and beneficial lake on Chicago’s far-south side. The property has been in the news lately due to a major announcement about privatizing Chicago’s port operations, and resulting scrutiny of the current management at IIPD.
Since the settlers first came to Chicago and before, this spot had been a thriving, life-filled area teeming with fish and wildlife. For generations it was, for many Chicagoans, a recreational destination rich with opportunities to hunt, trap and fish. It was a playground for this writer and innumerable others that grew up and lived in the nearby neighborhoods. The lake and the surroundings are still considered one of the top birding areas of the state; it is the centerpiece of the Calumet flyover for migratory birds, and the waters still harbor an abundance of various fish species.
Years of uncontrolled dumping by industry, with the complicity of government have shrunken, unmercifully altered, and polluted what had been regarded as “Chicago’s other lake.”
But a group of environmentalists including Openlands, Southeast Environmental Task Force, Friends of the Parks, Calumet Ecological Park Association, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Pullman Civic Organization, Audubon Society and others have been diligently working to “open up” Lake Calumet to the public once again. Their committee has been pursuing a Lake Calumet Vision plan for over 15 years -a plan to allow hiking, fishing, birdwatching, picnicking, camping, unmotorized boating, etc.
Just as the board and the operations of the Illinois International Port District need to become transparent and more accountable, it is time to reopen the unused portion of Lake Calumet area for the public to enjoy once again.
Tom Shepherd, Pullman
Lake Calumet Vision Committee