Fort Sheridan Beach Restoration Project

Daily North Shore

Update: Fort Sheridan Restoration

 by Julie Kemp Pick • April 17, 2016 

FORT SHERIDAN – Fort Sheridan Beach is closed for repairs, but people can still take advantage of the scenic views and some of the walking trails.

Daily North Shore asked Lake County Board Member Sandra Hart to explain Fort Sheridan Preserve restoration project, which is slated for the first stage of completion in October 2016.

DNS: What type of construction and restoration is taking place at Fort Sheridan Preserve?

Sandra Hart: The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) will be restoring five ravines, 40 acres of bluff and about 1.5 miles of habitat along the lakefront.  There has been a loss of 50-100 feet of shoreline since 1939 and significant erosion of sand due to winter storms.  The construction will stabilize the dunes and the bluff and will clean up the area along the beach.  They will be repairing/replacing some of the infrastructure in the water and also installing large rocks and other infrastructure.  Concrete rubble along the beach will be removed as well.  These changes will provide additional habitat for fish species and protection of the shoreline from strong wave action, and will reduce the erosion occurring on the beach as well as the dunes.  The dunes provide an important habitat for birds and other species and controls the erosion of the bluffs.

Scott’s Ravine (due east of the parade grounds), has a headwall that is failing, which is causing additional erosion.  The ravines will need restoration to minimize the amount of sediment and to protect them against potential slumps, which cause severe damage when they occur.  A slump is when we lose large sections of land often caused by the weakening of the sides of a bluff or ravine after winter freeze/thaw cycles and spring rains.  We saw this occur two years ago at Fort Sheridan when a large section of the bluff collapsed.  That is the area that was fenced off for some time for restoration and to ensure public safety.

DNS: Is the entire preserve closed, or just the beach? Are the trails still open for walking?

Hart: The entire beach is closed BUT the trails are open for walking except for select areas along the bluff where restoration is already taking place and/or where they are preparing sites for work.

DNS: How long will the construction take place?

Hart: Lakefront construction is expected to continue through October 2016, but certainly this date can change as weather will greatly impact progress.  We can expect to see brief, intermittent closures throughout the preserve through 2018 as work occurs in the ravines and along the bluffs.

DNS: What additional maintenance will be needed?

Hart: As is done throughout all of our preserves, there will be additional short closures for maintenance through 2021 as we remove invasive species and do controlled burns and other restorative work.

DNS: Regarding the area that was fenced off last summer, and remains fenced off from the walking trail on top of the bluff all the way down to the beach. Is it part of the restoration project? Is it permanent or will it come down sometime in the future?

Hart: The area that was fenced off was part of a slump that occurred after heavy rains.  A pipe burst that led from the small pond at the top of the bluff to the lakefront.  The interior of the bluff became “waterlogged” as a result of the clogged pipe and we lost a massive amount of the bluff when it collapsed.  The area had to be restored, and part of this restoration is the planting of grasses and wildflowers along the bluff, which will help stabilize the area.  This was NOT part of the restoration project because the project was not yet underway when it occurred. As you noted, the area was fenced off for a long time, and then it was reopened for a very short time in late 2015.  It is closed again for this restoration project, as are the entire bluff, dunes, and lakefront.

The following is a list of benefits that Hart provided as a result of this work:

[▪]  Increase habitat for Lake Michigan fish species

[▪]  Increase in acreage and quality of dune, bluff, lake, savanna, prairie, woodland, oak and  ravine habitat

[▪]  Increase coverage and numbers of endangered and threatened plant species

[▪]  Increase potential for threatened/endangered bird species

[▪]  Increase fish passage from the lake to the ravines

[▪]  Increase stabilization of ravines

[▪]  Recharge ground water

[▪]  Reduce / Eliminate Invasive Plant Species