Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area

By Kenneth J. Schoon | Go to book overview

16
PRESERVATION AND RESTORATION
OF NATURAL AREAS

THIS CHAPTER DESCRIBES SEVERAL, BUT CERTAINLY NOT ALL, preserved lands in the Calumet Area. For more than a century, the prevailing attitude in the Midwest about open lands was that they were just (yet) “undeveloped.” Dry flat, open areas were ready to become profitable. Empty lots in a residential neighborhood were “vacant,” an almost negative term that practically invited development. Wetlands and hills inhibited both farming and urban development. The wetlands had to be drained first—and many of them were—and hills and sand ridges had to be removed. What made this process not only easy but also profitable was that in northern Indiana all the hills and ridges were composed of sand or clay as opposed to solid rock (as they are in much of southern Indiana). Removing sand dunes or ridges with steam-based equipment was usually not financially impossible. The sand or clay could then be sold. Filling in or draining wetlands was quite possible as well.

In 1900, candidate Teddy Roosevelt emphasized conservation in his campaign for vice president. Also that year, the Chicago Municipal Science Club first proposed the setting aside of scenic areas of Cook County—setting in motion the establishment of the Cook County Forest Preserves. Daniel Burnham’s famous Plan of Chicago, completed in 1908, had among its primary goals the reclamation of the lakefront for the public. He wrote, “The Lakefront by right belongs to the people. Not a foot of its shores should be appropriated by individuals to the exclusion of the people.”1 Chicago’s Prairie Club became a major force in conservation in 1911.

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