CHICAGO (STMW) — The Chicago Park District is about to acquire nearly 600 acres of wetlands on the city’s Southeast Side as part of a decades-long plan to make sure industry and mother nature can be better neighbors.

Owned by the city and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the chunks of land about to be turned over to the park district stretch between 95th to 139th — largely along Lake Calumet. Environmental and park advocates have been pushing to clean up the slag and other waste left behind by now-closed steel mills. The goal: turn a stretch of the rust belt into a green corridor.

Already, rare black-crowned night-herons can be spotted. And waterfowl rely on the wetlands in and around the 556 acres the park district is to acquire, said Gia Biagi, park district director of planning and development.

“It won’t have . . . ball fields and really active recreation. It’s meant to be a place to view wildlife,” Biagi said.

While there’s no price tag on the acquisition, the park district will be seeking federal grants for continued clean-up of the land.

Residents of the area have been pushing for the clean-up and a local park watchdog group is lauding the acquisition as a giant leap toward doing that.

“Before we all knew best environmental practices, we did a lot of things . . . with the disposal of waste. Now the community wants to clean up and recover some of the areas — and the city’s doing that, slowly,” said Erma Tranter, president of Friends of the Parks.

–Chicago Sun-Times, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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