Good News and Bad News About the Lagoon
The good news is that the water in the lagoon is cleaner today than any time in the past eight years.
That’s the conclusion of Indian Boundary Park Supervisor Phil Martini, based on weekly readings of algae, solid matter and pH levels measured by a private company contracted by the Chicago Park District.
The reason for the cleanliness is part of the bad news: the absence of ducks and geese, which foul the water with their feces. And with no ducks or geese to feed, park users have no reason to throw bread or other harmful organic matter into the lagoon in the mistaken belief they are feeding the waterfowl. In fact, such food is bad for the birds, fills their stomachs with avian junk food, and as the food decomposes, it further threatens the lagoon water.
So, who evicted the ducks and geese? Two reasons: two huge (and we mean really big) snapping turtles that lurk in the water. It didn’t take the ducks and geese long to realize they really weren’t wanted in the lagoon as long as the snappers were active. Some park users say the occasional (unconfirmed) sighting of a coyote in the park’s early hours added to the hostile fowl environment.
In any case, the ducks and geese departed -- and the great blue heron, too -- to the disappointment of many lagoon visitors.
Advisory Council Secretary Leta Dally, who has become a champion of the lagoon’s condition, says that the snapping turtles are a hazard, and should be removed. Additionally, a couple score of red-eared sliders also have outstayed their welcome. The smaller turtles doubtless were plunked in the lagoon by former owners who thought they were disposing of their pets in a humane way.
“I Googled how to catch these critters, and I think we proactively need to pursue finding the right people to remove them,” probably at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources or the Chicago Park District, Leta says. Her research continues.
If the fowl return, will park fowl-feeders also resume pumping loaves of bread or grapes into the water? Bad idea, says Daniel Ebel, an Advisory Council member and active naturalist. “There are certain foods that are less harmful than bread for waterfowl,” he says, “but when you list out all of the negatives associated with feeding wild waterfowl, it really is best not to feed them.”
One final update, on the comatose aerator in the lagoon. It hasn’t worked for weeks. Jason Steger, nature areas manager for the Chicago Park District, reports he “tried a couple times to have the aerator/fountain activated, with no luck. It keeps tripping the circuit breaker. I am going to have the aerator pulled” to repair it or replace it.