Evanston residents propose ideas to restore bird habitat harmed by Northwestern construction


Connie Wang/The Daily Northwestern

Ryan Kettelkamp, a landscape architect, shows Evanston residents the bird habitat areas affected by Northwestern’s construction.The city has plans to start rehabilitating the areas by next fall.

Courtney Morrison, Reporter

Evanston officials and community members discussed Wednesday ways to restore bird habitats damaged by Northwestern’s visitor center construction.

“We lost a habitat area that was facilitating migratory birds and other wildlife, so what we want to do is try to reconstruct it,” said Stefanie Levine, the city’s senior project manager. “We want to familiarize folks with the project, why we’re doing it and where it’s located. We also want to get their feedback to hopefully incorporate in a final design.”

The meeting for the Clark Street Beach Bird Habitat Restoration Project included with a visit to the project site, located on the north end of Clark Street Beach, where landscape architect Ryan Kettelkamp described the three dune areas that lost vegetation ideal for birds.

With NU’s recent construction, 275 trees — which served as homes for 280 different bird species that migrate annually — were lost, Kettelkamp said. To compensate for the lost acres, the city will plant closer to the concrete paths and beach shoreline by taking down the volleyball nets on the beach, he added.

With a $173,000 budget, the city plans to approach the restoration in four steps: removing undesirable material, planting shrubs and trees, protecting the area with beach fencing and limited public access to the beach, and maintaining the plants overtime. The city is also accepting donations for the project.

Residents further discussed the project’s implications at a meeting in the NU John Evans Alumni Center. Speakers included restoration specialist Robert Sliwinski and bird specialist Judy Pollock. 

“One of the exciting things about this project is that, when you live in a city, there’s not much you can do that directly influences wildlife conservation,” Pollock said. “However, with migratory birds, that’s really a place where citizens can play a direct role in conserving rare and important wildlife.” 

Evanston resident Virginia Beatty was excited for the project to start due to the beach’s environmental history.

“There is a big connection between Northwestern and the trees, so (the project) is bringing together the two, like reconstructing the past,” she said. “This project will serve to bring people together and promote education, especially for little kids because they like to see wildlife like squirrels.”

Evanston plans to implement the project by fall 2015.

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