Re-elect Dan Lipinski Congressman

Army Corps Transfers Nature Preserve to MWRD



Chicago Tribune


Worth's plan to acquire the Lucas Berg Nature Preserve may be boosted by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers transferring deed to MWRD

Worth officials hope the village's chances of acquiring the Lucas Berg Nature Preserve to ensure that it remains in its natural state got a boost with the announcement that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has transferred ownership of the site to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

The MWRD will soon begin the process of determining what is and is not considered a wetlands area within the 78-acre property and is expected to begin seeking appraisals on what the land is worth, officials have said.

Worth has long coveted the preserve, located on the western edge of the village, with the hope of retaining its unspoiled beauty, using areas of it for flood relief and seeing some retail use on the northern edge along 111th Street.

Monday's announcement on the land transfer came from the office of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd, who has long worked to prevent the site from being used to store silt dredged from the nearby Calumet Sag Channel, as was proposed years ago by the Army Corps.

Last year, Lipinski succeeded in getting language inserted into a federal law that prohibited the Army Corps from dumping dredged material on the property. With no longer have use of the site, the Army Corps agreed to return the land to the MWRD.

"This is a big victory for the community of Worth and the surrounding area," Lipinski said in a prepared statement. "For many years, it has been a priority of mine to remove Lucas Berg as the Army Corps' designated site for dumping dredged materials from the Cal-Sag. It was a difficult road to get this done,"

Village officials hope to persuade the MWRD to sell the property, 7600 W. 111th St., to the village so it can be maintained for recreational use and to temporarily detain stormwater, Mayor Mary Werner said, adding that the value of the land is unknown but will be determined through the appraisals. She said Worth likely would not be able to acquire the land for at least two years.

MWRD spokeswoman Allison Fore had no comment Tuesday but said recently that the sanitary district, which serves Chicago and Cook County, will be looking at its options for the property. She indicated that if the MWRD does not need the land for its corporate use, then it's required to sell the land.

When asked then about the land's worth, Fore said the appraisals would determine that. She said the MWRD would take offers from both public and private bidders.

The MWRD and Worth are working on using part of the site to store stormwater and relieve flooding in Worth Woods, a nearby residential subdivision.

Mike McElroy, Worth's life safety officer and its point man on Lucas Berg, is encouraged by the deed transfer but is a bit concerned about talk of commercial development along 111th Street.

"I would hope that whatever is put in there should pay homage to the area behind it," he said. "... I'd like to see maybe a kayak rental business or a restaurant that offers dining looking over the (Lucas Berg) property."

McElroy is director of marine operations and regulatory affairs for the Wendella Sightseeing Boats in downtown Chicago. Among his duties in Worth is organizing the twice-a-year cleanup of the nature preserve.

Worth resident Joyce Koester, who for nine years has lived where Oketo Avenue dead-ends on the east side of the property, has one wish — keep the property as is.

"The best thing would be for the village to obtain it and to not change a thing," she said. "The view is awesome. It's very pretty. We like to sit on our (second-floor) deck and love watching the swans and ducks out there. It's so peaceful. It's hard to believe we're living in the village of Worth."

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