Washington Park Lagoon Rehabilitation
Chicago Park District, URS Corporation
Washington Park was originally conceived by Olmsted and Vaux in 1871. Later, the noted landscape architect, W. S. Cleveland, modified the park plan and oversaw its implementation. In the 1990s, the Chicago Park District recognized that the lagoon needed to be rehabilitated to overcome severe shoreline erosion, siltation, poor water quality, and degradation of the original vegetation due to severe overuse by fishermen and other users. The goal was to restore the lagoon while respecting its historic character, yet allow it to meet the demands of today’s users.
Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. participated in the site analysis, and, in conjunction with the landscape historian Barbara Geiger, performed historic analysis and research, public meetings, schematic design, project budgets, contract documentation, and construction administration. The result is a $2.5 million dollar project that improves water quality, stabilizes shorelines, increases public access, broadens habitat and plant diversity, and reduces quantities of invasive plant species. Natural plant communities were used to stabilize shorelines in a way that was compatible with the historic mown lawn edge.
The project includes new paths, site furniture, reconstruction of a historic bridge, the addition of universally-accessible boardwalks and fishing stations, as well as a boathouse that replaces a previous structure removed due to deterioration and disrepair. The Stroll Garden at the eastern edge of the park was refurbished by removing invasive vegetation along the stream banks, and replanted with native wetland species, shrubs and flowering perennials in order to create seasonal interest as well as bird and wildlife habitat. The meandering stream and its water source were totally rebuilt as well. The project was completed in 2004.