South Pond returning to natural habitat

April 13, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Created in the late 1800s, the Lincoln Park Zoo is reconstructing the pond to the tune of $12 million.

"We're in the process of naturalizing South Pond to become the Nature Boardwalk in Lincoln Park Zoo. And when we're done in about two or three months we'll have a naturalistic environment. Natural vegetation, aquatic vegetation, prairie landscaping around it," said Steve Thompson, Senior V.P. Conservation Manager.

The original South Pond was created about 140 years ago just after the Civil War. Through the years some work was done on the pond - but never anything like this.

By mid summer the pond -- that was once known for its foul water and mosquitoes-- will be the center of nature in the center of the city. A half mile long boardwalk will circle the entire pond and cattails and other vegetation will be sprouting from the water. It will be, they say, a balanced eco system.

"We'll have aquatic plants that will be filtering the water. Eventually we'll have frogs and turtles and lots of birds," said Thompson.

When the pond is filled with water, reaching up to 15-feet in one place, they will add fish: largemouth bass, bluegills and others. But no fishing at least for the first year. Clean water, a boardwalk and Cafe Brauer.

"There's going to be a beer garden where people can sit outside and have a beer, have food and we're going to call it the patio," said Thompson.

The South Pond is slated to reopen at the end of June.

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