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Great Lakes Article:

Hegewisch marsh gets environmental grant
Project includes visitors center, habitat preservation
By Terrie Henderson
Northwest Indiana Times
Published February 2, 2006

CHICAGO | One of the last remaining wetlands in the Chicago area just received a little financial help from its friends.

The Hegewisch Marsh, on the west side of Torrence Avenue and bordered by the Little Calumet River and the Ford Assembly Plant in the Hegewisch neighborhood, consists of more than 100 acres of wetlands, trees and upland areas.

The state received a $750,000 grant for restoration and preservation of the marsh, said Dan Persky, senior policy adviser and council for Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.

It is one of the first large-scale wetland restoration projects in the Calumet area.

The grant comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of its National Costal Wetland Conservation Grant Program.

Persky said the marsh is considered a costal area.

"All the water from that site flows directly to Lake Michigan," Persky said. "Wetlands are the kidneys for our Great Lakes."

The grant will be used to put in trails, to rid the site of non-native species and to restore the state of natural species within the marsh. It also will be used to remove invasive species, install native plants and execute other habitat changes to benefit coastal wetland-dependent plants and animals.

Aaron Rosinski, executive director for the Southeast Environmental Task Force, said the marsh needs to be preserved because it is unique.

"It has been identified as one of the last major remaining wetlands that used to cover the region," Rosinski said, adding that the initiative to preserve the site was a partnered effort with the Chicago Department of Environment.

Persky said future plans for the marsh include a visitors center called the Ford Calumet Environmental Center. He said Ford Motor Co. has agreed to provide $6 million for the project.

Persky said the center will be a place where visitors can learn about the wetlands, and a design for the center already has been developed.

"It's designed so that birds will be able to fly right through it," Persky said.


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