Park District draws line in the sand, only in the wrong place

The latest on a request for Montrose Beach Dunes habitat addition that would make more room for Piping Plovers

There was a blip of local news that came during this week’s unpleasantness that you may have missed. This online story and this online story, as well as a live television segment, featured advocates’ request for additional habitat for Piping Plovers Monty and Rose at the Montrose Beach Dunes natural area, the only Illinois Natural Areas Inventory site on the North Side of Chicago.

I’ve written about this before, and my first official newsletter was about it. I also made a film about the story of the endangered plovers nesting at Montrose in 2019 and am working on a second.

The Park District first encouraged the request, then rebuffed it, and now has a new stance. They were for the habitat addition before they were against it.

Under media scrutiny, the Park District offered a public statement in response that provides some insight into its thought process, saying:

“When the plovers are not present, the area in question is also host to a beach volleyball league and is used by kayak and jet ski concessions. Recreational space at all of our beaches, including Montrose Beach, has been reduced by high Lake Michigan water levels.”

The full statement, available here, praised the plovers and their community of supporters. The problem is the area in question has never been used by kayak and jet ski concessions. That area is farther to the west. And according to the conversations I’ve had, and the acknowledgement of at least one Park District official, the volleyball players are very supportive of the addition.

What’s more, dunes, swales, native grasses and forbs provide natural buffers for rising water levels. The presence of the natural area actually might create more space on the beach for the myriad of activities that take place at Montrose.

The nonprofit Friends of the Parks praised the coverage of the habitat addition in an email to supporters on Wednesday. Volunteer Site Steward Leslie Borns is a past recipient of Friends of the Parks’ Individual Advocacy VIP (Volunteers-in-Parks) Award. Said the Friends group:

“We can’t help but be pleased at the attention being brought to longtime friend of the parks, Leslie Borns, and her leadership in advocating for the Montrose Natural Area.” 

The next step is to continue contacting the Park District to voice support for the habitat addition so that it can be in place before the 2021 nesting season. There is more detail on the request, first sent on Nov. 8, and Park District contact information here.

This Week in Birding was the first outlet to draw attention to the possible habitat addition at Montrose. Be part of a community of people who share your interest in birds. By becoming a paid subscriber, you join a community where making films like “Monty and Rose” and informing others about bird habitat is possible.

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