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In Millennium Reserve, a firing range?

Conservationists say they were “blindsided” when Mayor Emanuel resurrected a proposal to build a police firing range on the Southeast Side, just days after he joined in announcing the area would be part of a massive Millennium Reserve open space project.

The 33-acre firing range site is in “the heart” of what’s being called the Calumet Core, slated for the first phase of environmental renovation and trail-building under the Millennium Reserve, said Carolyn Marsh of the Chicago Audubon Society.

“It’s sad that our politicians, and particularly our new mayor, seem to be hypocritical on this issue,” Marsh said.

Days after the December 9 Millennium Reserve announcement, Emanuel requested the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to take up a dormant proposal to lease the site to the city.

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City’s Last Landfill Closing

The city’s last landfill is slated to permanently close on December 31, and the Illinois EPA is holding a public hearing Wednesday on the permit governing closing and maintenance of Waste Management’s CID site at 134th near the Calumet River.

Local environmental activists want to see permit provisions concerning the landfill’s retention pond and water systems strengthened, reflecting fears that contaminated water could be leaking into groundwater or the river, said Alan Mammoser of the Southeast Environmental Task Force.

Waste Management stopped taking municipal waste in 2004 following City Council enactment of a landfill moratorium, later extended to a 20-year period. The company subsequently sought a deal to extend the landfill’s life for five years in exchange for promises to build a park on the site after it was closed. The proposal met opposition from local community, environmental and business groups, Ald. John Pope (10th ward) rejected it.

After decades as the city’s dumping ground, the Southeast Side is increasingly recognized for its rich environmental resources, including unique marshes, wetlands and prairies which host numerous rare species. The state and city are planning extensive wetlands restoration and brownfield development in the area, and a multimillion-dollar environmental center is planned for the Calumet open space reserve, near the Waste Management landfill.

The IEPA hearing takes place Wednesday, October 24, starting at 5:30 p.m., at the Hegewisch Public Library, 3048 E. 130th Street.

For more: Alan Mammoser, Southeast Environmental Task Force, 773-646-0436

Completing Lakefront Park Plan

The first of three community meetings of a new plan to complete the south lakefront park system will be held this Wednesday, October 25, at 7 p.m. at The Zone, 11731 S. Avenue O.

The plan will also be aired November 16 at the Rainbow Beach fieldhouse and November 21 at the South Chicago library.

The October 25 meeting is cosponsored by Friends of the Parks, the Southeast Environmental Task Force, the South East Chicago Historical Society and the Calumet Ecological Park Association. It’s part of Friends of the Parks’ “Last Four Miles” initiative, which is engaging communities to develop concept plans for the last four miles of Chicago’s thirty-mile lakefront which remains outside the park system.

“We were looking for ways to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the 1909 Burnham Plan, which called for the entire lakefront to be public parkland,” said Eleanor Roemer of FOTP. The initiative “builds of a long history of citizens working to ensure public access to the lake,” she said.

A community design charette in May considered ideas for lakefront stretches from 71st to 75th streets and the section south of 79th to 95th street which includes the former USX site and Port of Chicago facilities. Draft planning concepts, which include a variety of alternatives, are being presented at meetings with neighborhood groups as well as the three public community meetings.

Community input will be incorporated into a consensus plan which will be exhibited at the Chicago Architecture Foundation this winter and at community sites. It will also be presented to the city and the Chicago Park District.

FOTP expects the planning process can serve as a model for a subsequent effort to open two miles of northside lakefront, from Hollywood to Evanston, to public access, Roemer said.

20-Year Landfill Moratorium Proposed

[UPDATE – The City Council passed the ordinance extending the moratorium on landfill expansions for 20 years at its June 8 session.]

In response to continuing efforts by Waste Management to promote a park proposal contingent on expanding its CID landfill, Tenth Ward Alderman John Pope has proposed the city extend its two-year moratorium on landfill expansions to 20 years.

Calumet area environmental and community activists will attend the June 7 meeting of the City Council’s environmental protection committee to support the proposal, said Marian Byrnes of the Calumet Ecological Park Association.

Waste Management has offered to develop a 200-acre park in exchange for five more years of dumping at the landfill, located at 130th and the Bishop Ford Expressway. The proposal would require an exception to the city’s two-year moratorium on landfill expansions, which has been repeatedly renewed. Pope’s ordinance would bar the landfill-park proposal — or any landfill expansions — for 20 years.

Waste Management’s proposal is opposed by three local chambers of commerce and ten community-based organizations, along with CEPA and the Southeast Environmental Task Force, Byrnes said.

Waste Management is now pushing a zoning ordinance to provide for “redevelopment” of landfills.

The CID landfill is the only open landfill in the city, and the last of scores of landfills in the Calumet region still in operation.

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is preparing a counterproposal for the site.

The environmental protection committee meets Tuesday, June 7 at 10 a.m at City Hall.

Calumet Landfill-Park Proposal Revived

Despite the City Council’s extension of Chicago’s landfill moratorium last December, Waste Management Inc. is continuing an effort to expand its CID landfill at 134th and the Calumet River. It’s the last active landfill in Chicago — and the last of scores that once dotted the Calumet region.

Waste Management has proposed expanding the landfill and operating it for an additional five years, then closing it and building a public park on the property.

Asked whether the landfill-park proposal would require an exception to the moratorium, Bill Plunkett of Waste Management said, “That would be up to the city.”

An aide to Tenth Ward Ald. John Pope said that renewal of the city’s moratorium took the Waste Management proposal out of consideration.

But petitions supporting the proposal “to add debris and close the landfill forever in five years and turn it into an environmentally-safe, 200-acre ‘Gateway Park’” have been passed extensively in the 10th Ward in recent weeks.

Rosa Perea of Centro Communitario Juan Diego said a number of women from her organization were invited to a meeting hosted by the United Neighborhood Organization to recruit people to the petition for $20 a page. They attend the meeting but declined the offer, she said. “It’s not what we’ve been fighting for.”

Juan Rangel of UNO acknowledged “some people find it a little ironic” that the group is supporting the proposal, although 20 years ago it championed the moratorium.

“We continue to support the intent of the moratorium,” he said, but the proposed landfill expansion would merely be “filling in a space between two existing dumps.” He said a UNO poll of Hispanics in the 10th Ward found respondents “split down the middle” — until the promise of up to 200 new jobs connected with the proposal was mentioned. Then there was “overwhelming support,” he said.

According to Aaron Rosinski of Southeast Environmental Task Force, those jobs are mainly connected to a recycling facility which Waste Management plans to build regardless of the success of the proposal.

The proposal would allow 6 million additional tons of solid waste to be dumped at the site over five years — or 5,000 tons a day, according to Marion Byrnes of the Calumet Ecological Park Association. She cited studies linking landfill gas emissions to increased cancer and leukemia.

The I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor is planning to extend its boundaries through the Calumet waterways of the Southeast Side, Byrnes said. “At this point in the history of the Southeast Side — with the Calumet Initiative signed by the governor and mayor to preserve 3000 acres of wetlands and develop 3000 acres of brownfields as clean industrial development — we don’t need five more years of a giant garbage dump,” she said.

The landfill is a few hundred yards from the site of the Ford Calumet Ecological Center, slated to open in 2007, Byrnes said, adding that odors from the landfill “would certainly discourage return visits” to the center.

Without the landfill expansion, Waste Management would be responsible for closing the site, which is now virtually full; a city draft plan calls for landscaping using native vegetation, with a trail and provisions for public access, Byrnes said.

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