Calumet Stewardship Initiative

2009 Winter / Spring

Aerial photos show uniqueness of the Calumet Region

by Rod Sellers and Nicole Kamins

On August 20, 2008, we were incredibly lucky to experience flying over the Calumet area in a helicopter to shoot video footage for a documentary program to be used at the Ford Calumet Environmental Center at Hegewisch Marsh. The goal was to obtain footage of the fascinating juxtaposition of nature, industry and community that make the Calumet region so unique. When complete, the ten-minute documentary will provide Center visitors with a brief introduction to the Calumet region, and the initiative to simultaneously restore both industry and ecology.

Rod took advantage of the opportunity to snap many photographs from the Vietnam-era helicopter, which had the doors removed to facilitate filming. This allowed for exceptional views. The 7 am departure made for a breezy and chilly ride.  The adventure departed from Schaumburg Airport and flew east to Lake Michigan and then along the lakeshore to the Calumet area. The photographs and video taken that day provide a most interesting birds-eye perspective of our wonderful City, and particularly the Calumet area. It was truly breathtaking.

The trip focused on the Calumet River, natural areas in the Calumet region and the Hegewisch Marsh site.  Other places of interest included the South Works site, Lake Calumet, Wolf Lake, the Pullman neighborhood and other former industrial sites.  The weather was perfect for filming, sunny and almost cloudless. Excellent video was secured of the invaluable open spaces, including Hegewisch Marsh, Indian Ridge Marsh, Heron Pond, Big Marsh, Lake Calumet, Hyde Lake Wetlands, Wolf Lake, Powderhorn Lake, Eggers Woods, and Van Vlissingen Prairie, among others.

There are several photos of the Hulett Automatic Ore Unloaders, huge machines that reduced the unloading time of vessels bringing steelmaking materials from days to hours.  The Huletts on the Calumet River, at the former LTV / Republic Steel plant, are the last two of their kind in the world, and are slated for demolition.

There are some very good pictures of the John Sherwin, a lake boat that had been docked at the Lake Calumet grain elevators since September 2006 and was being used as a grain storage barge. Two days after photographing the Sherwin at Lake Calumet on August 20, the ship had departed. There are also excellent pictures of the decommissioned Coast Guard cutter, Acacia, currently docked in the North Slip at the former South Works site.

The pictures taken that day and others of local interest are accessible from the Southeast Chicago Historical Society web site at:

Looking Forward to Partnering

By Joan Podkul, CSI Chair

Along with our regularly scheduled events for the coming year, we look forward to CSI partnering with the Burnham Plan Centennial, the 2nd Annual 10th Ward Green Summit, the Indiana Dunes Bio-Blitz, Chicago Artists' Month in October and the No Child Left Inside Program.   Above all, we hold dear our member organizations and gratefully acknowledge their collective and continuing efforts  toward preserving the cultural and environmental treasures of the Calumet.

Indiana Bus Tour

By Linda Cook, CSI Membership Chair

On September 22, 2008, Chicago Department of Environment organized a bus tour to visit ecologically significant natural areas in northwest Indiana, in the interest of increasing bi-state cooperation. The tour began at the Southeast Environmental Task Force office and was led by Paul Labus (The Nature Conservancy) and Daniel Goldfarb (Wildlife Habitat Council).

Along Cline Avenue, we passed a dredging area in Indiana Harbor on the south and BP Oil to the north.  Arcelor Mittal Steel came up next - the steel giant is incorporating its Great Lakes Watershed Program to restore open spaces.

We hiked trails in the Miller Woods from the beach to the Paul Douglas Nature Center.  Guide Christine Gerlach, with the National Park Service, pointed out the famous Mount Baldy in the distance just opposite swales.  Closer by, we viewed paper birch, Jack pine, white and black oak , sand blowouts, a lagoon bordered by a slag fill, a threatened pan, invasive Phragmites, and various native wildflowers.  Christine explained that some 600 native plant species are extinct due to brush fires from the old trains in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Next was the 90-acre Ivanhoe Nature Preserve in Gary.  It was purchased in the 1980s from the South Shore Railroad.  Paul Labus and John Drake lead two separate groups east and west to see the biodiversity of the preserve.  Select trees were removed to make trails and allow prairie plants to flourish.  Lupine grows well in the preserve providing food for the Karner Blue Butterfly, whose numbers have increased successfully over the years. In the fall, indigo plants growing widely in the open canopy areas are good indicators of the success of the restoration.  We then traveled to Gibson Woods Nature Preserve to eat lunch.  Park manager Joy Bower was on hand for questions concerning the plant and animal diversity of the preserve.

Our last stop was Hoosier Prairie in Griffith. Tom Post (Indiana Department of Natural Resources) told us that the site is a state preserve, has national preserve status, and is part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore System.  It is protected by federal and state governments as well as The Nature Conservancy.  The prairie sits between Ridge Road (Calumet Beach) and U. S. 30 (Glenwood Beach).  Seasonal controlled burns are complicated by the preserve’s neighbors, nearby oil storage structures, and natural gas caverns and oil pipe lines below the prairie.  In addition, three town governments must give permission for the burns every year.

Overall, participants enjoyed a day of discovery, experiencing some of the jewels of Northwest Indiana.  I would join another tour of more NWI treasures in a heartbeat, and we look forward to the next tour, when Illinois folks invite Indiana folks to explore key sites.

For additional archived videos of stewardship and conservation activities in the region check out Calumet resident, and past CSI secretary, Kevin Murphy's Calumet Stewardship YouTube account.

Photos and Videos