I had high hopes, when it was announced that the National Park Service (NPS) would be doing an environmental assessment of the Obama Presidential Center. At last, I thought, some scientific observations, of the impact of the OPC on the Park, would be done. Sadly, this assessment ignores the impact of the OPC, its central tower, the loss of 800 to 1,000 trees, road closures and, in other areas, road widening. 
 
I was disappointed there was no mention of the migratory flyway that goes through the Park. They made no reference to the building, at all. That is a stunning omission. 
 
The NPS established the Indiana Dunes National Park, in an effort to preserve nature, near Chicago. Here, in Jackson Park, we have remnants of that nature, the oak savannah ecosystem on the Wooded Island one example.  It is nature in the city: exactly what Olmsted envisioned. I cannot understand how you can protect one, and ignore the other. 
 
The environmental impact of the OPC goes well beyond this 235 foot, twenty three story building, the four other buildings, the acres of concrete plaza. It widens Stony Island, Hayes Drive, Lake Shore Drive. It removes Cornell Drive, Marquette Drive, the East bound Midway. Between 800 to 1,000 trees will be removed, a huge loss of tree cover, canopy. We will see replacement saplings with 3" diameter going in. It will take fifty years or more for these saplings to be as large, equal to what is growing there, now. 
 
 
This assessment is both faulty and incomplete. The only way to reduce the impact of the OPC is to move it to another location in the city.
Ross Petersen

(1) comment

Ross Petersen

My letter also mentions recent developments in what could best be described as the return of Nature, to the City. Piping plovers, a federally protected bird, have nested on Montrose Beach for the past two years. They were thought to be on the edge of extinction. Similar habitat exists in both Jackson Park as well as SSCC Nature areas.

This environmental assessment relied on maps, provided by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, which are dated. As the NPS has charged us $1.3 million for this study, the Least they can do is to visit the site. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case. The EA also ignored US F&W studies of the area using doppler radar - a suspicious omission. The EA makes claims regarding tree removals downplaying that we are taking down trees with a three foot diameter, and replacing it with a sapling with three inch diameter. We don't know what percentage of the Park's trees will be lost, because we don't have a census. The loss of tree cover will be substantial.

On a project of this size, in this location, an environmental impact statement must be done. This EA does not adequately address the impact of the OPC.

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