Protecting Sensitive Areas on Waukegan Harbor Dunes

Protecting Sensitive Areas on Waukegan Harbor Dunes

By Joel Greenberg and Jean (Susie) Schreiber, Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group

The Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group (CAG) recognized the need to prepare a baseline inventory of the flora and fauna on the Waukegan dunal area. This area is easily accessible by the general public both by foot and by motorized vehicles. The latter have used the dunes as an all-terrain vehicle recreational area with no regard to the existing flora or fauna.

Over the past eighteen years there have been various proposals to:

  1. Build an active playground and water park on the southern portion of the dunes adjacent to the public swimming beach, and
  2. Bulldoze the dunes down, clear away the plant material (referred to as weeds), and create a nice clean swimming beach.

A complete baseline inventory was needed to validate the necessity of protecting the flora and fauna presently using the area, and to advocate for appropriate usage of the area by the public. Our group completed the following surveys:

  1. Breeding and Migrant Bird Population Survey of the dunal area of the Waukegan Area of Concern
  2. Plant Survey of the dunal area of the Waukegan Area of Concern
  3. Amphibian, Reptile, Anostracan, and Decapod Survey of the Dunal Area of the Waukegan Area of Concern
  4. Lepidoptera, Odonata, and Coleopteran Survey of the Dunal Area of The Waukegan Area of Concern

This major effort to collect baseline data has already proved to be of great importance. A contemplated bicycle path routed through the dunes would have damaged several populations of state-listed endangered plants. The data was provided to planners, and as a result, adjustments are now being considered to the location of a proposed lakeside biking /hiking trail.

In addition, barriers have been placed in appropriate access areas by the City of Waukegan to attempt to prevent vehicular use of the dunes. The new information to be collected and analyzed will contribute to the quality of the decisions determining the future of this remarkable area.

What do you consider the keys to your success?

The support of the entire Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group, the timely financial backing of the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund, and the recognition of regional educators and area scientists of the rich diversity this area affords to future formal and informal educational and research opportunities.

How would you outline the steps you took to organize your project in order to advise another group working on a similar project?

Proactive planning for protection of areas of high ecological value needs to be implemented before developers and planners begin to evaluate usage of the area under consideration.

· Notation of the species requiring a baseline inventory and a realistic funding amount for the proposed project(s) should be developed with the assistance of professionals who do this type of work.

· Access permission must be obtained from the property owners, and end benefits of the project to them should be highlighted.

· Network with organizations and agencies which have access to funding dollars.

Share end goals with federal, state, and local agencies benefiting from the work to be done, and with local educators and organizations who will be able to utilize the final product for the local community.

What have the effects of this effort been on your organization’s work?

· Immediate ability to effect change in developers and planners vision and end use of the dunal area and adjacent properties.

· Recognition, and detailed verification, of the value and rich species diversity of the area, thereby giving strong support for its protection when working with local representatives and developers.

· Recognition by state and federal agencies that the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group projects are well thought out, researched, and produce high quality end products for use by a variety of agencies and organizations.

· Ability to now leverage money on present and future grant proposals because of the assistance given by the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund in the early stages of the project.

· Respect by large and small local corporations and educators.

Recognition on local TV of the work in progress by the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group.

How has the project affected your community?

· There is increased awareness by residents and local officials of the intrinsic value of the dunes for recreational and educational uses.

· International recognition through the Waukegan CAG/Lake Baikal, Russia Partnership of how citizens can effect positive protection of sensitive areas working in cooperation with corporations and governmental units. A small group of Waukegan Harbor Citizen Advisory Group members have been invited to Lake Baikal, Russia this August to further share the components of all of our work in remediating the Waukegan Area of Concern.

· The exchanges that are taking place between Waukegan and Lake Baikal will be implemented in e-mail and website exchanges between partner schools. Pilot exchanges are in process now.

What particular stumbling blocks, challenges, or defeats did you encounter?

A few local representatives who still do not recognize the merit of the work in progress on the dunes were a “challenge”. Other than this, the careful attention to detail on this project has removed stumbling blocks before they could arise, and has won us many, many supporters.

How many people were involved?

Initially: 11

Near Future: About 60

A minimum of 350 people-hours have been spent on the project.

How was public involvement motivated and facilitated?

The Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group and the researchers themselves presently reflect most of the public involvement. The avian and plant reports were presented to the Urban Land Institute for their consideration in their final lakefront development planning document for the City of Waukegan. The Planning Departments of the City of Waukegan and the Lake County Board of Commissioners have had brief overviews as has the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

How was public education a component of your program?

In May of 2002, a pilot educational project took place in the dunal area with students presently involved with the Waukegan CAG/Lake Baikal Partnership. This will involve the principle site investigators providing a day of outdoor education in their areas of expertise for the students.

Simultaneous description of the activities will be digitally captured in Russian, Spanish, French and English for use in the Waukegan CAG/Lake Baikal Partnership educational outreach projects. Press coverage of the event is planned. Midwest Generation, a corporate donor to a portion of this year’s research, will be on hand throughout the day to record the event for their public relations use.

What was the primary means of communication?

The Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group holds monthly meetings, and follows up with interested parties. Communication is through e-mail, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings.

What resources were available/acquired/tapped into?

Financing through 2001 has been from the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund. This year (2002), Midwest Generation, one of the property owners, and a Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group member, graciously agreed to contribute $2,300 toward this year’s research on the dunal area. Their decision was based on the high quality of work completed in the past two years, and the integrity of the complete project.

Other comments that you feel would be helpful to other grassroots organizations working on similar projects.

A heartfelt thanks from the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group to all of the supporters and funders of this project. It would not have been realized without your help and guidance.

Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group
Joel Greenberg Jean (Susie) Schreiber
3926 N. Washington Street
Westmont, IL 60093
630-725-9416 630-725-9416 (fax)

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