Had the chance today to tramp around an 80 acre black oak savanna, currently owned by the City of Gary. The parcel is a mere block west of Lake St in downtown Miller and is south of the Miller Woods and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
It’s a healthy dune and swale with many native plants, a clear understory with lots of space in between the trees, invasive plants relegated to the edges, and very little litter. We counted 7 tires, 2 pop cans, and a shoe. A little stream curves around low dune ridges, a true rarity out this way!
Two interesting finds: First, a partially decomposed and badly mangled deer carcass. One of the unfortunate thing’s hooves was about 15 feet away. We also found the word “POACHER” spray painted on a tree. Word on the street is that a few old timers still hunt in these woods, that would perhaps explain the occasional early morning rifle shots I’ve heard. But no shells or other signs of human activity were noticed. The beaver have been busy tho.
A savannah is a transitional area. In our case, a transition between eastern forests and (middle) western prairie. In the southwest corner of the Great Lakes region and the rest of the American middle west it has been much abused under 200+ years of white settler supremacy. Only slowly are we coming to appreciate and implement wiser land practices of those who preceded us.
Marquette Park, Gary, IN
Closest to home is Marquette Park, where since 2014 I’ve participated in many land stewardship efforts. While the beach tends to get the most attention, the southern part offers very dramatic hidden views of the backdunes, particularly the area south of Marquette Drive and the area north of Hemlock Avenue.
A neighbor told me, with straight faced earnestness, that Miller Woods was “probably closest to what the region looked like before the white man came and fucked it up.” The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting monthly 4th Saturday stewardship days in 2015 as part of the Miller Woods restoration project.
The Bur Oak Woods, Hobart, Indiana
West Pullman Park, Chicago, Illinois
West Pullman Park sits atop a sand-spit beach, formed almost 12,000 years ago, when the southern lakeshore ran along the limestone reef in Thornton, through Lake County, Indiana along Ridge Road, overlapping the older Glenwood Phase beach in Porter County, and curving north towards what would become Michigan, a mere mile or so from where the lake currently is today. It’s one of two visible old beach ridges in Chicago’s ‘Wild Hundreds’, and it’s one of a few undisturbed natural areas in Chicago.
scenes from a recent controlled burn.
Reinventing Gary was a presentation of work by design and urban planning students from 3 of the 4 major Chicago universities that have been working in Gary. The event was sponsored by the Miller Beach Arts and Creative District (MBACD) and held on the evening of Saturday, 15 November 2014, at the Marshall Garder Center for the Arts, in Miller.
The participating schools were the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The evening also featured a discussion moderated by executive director of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, Ty Warren.
Folks hoping for a nice show of community unity were to be sorely abrupted to reality. In a 5000 square foot gallery, located in a city with a Black population between 80-90%, people of color had been near completely eliminated from the vision.
After the powerful Halloween 2014 storm that destroyed the new lakefront Whiting Park, would this be wise architecture for the Miller lakefront?
The panel was mercifully swift, the faculty leaders from the three programs and a half dozen students gave the usual lauditudes about engaging with the community and openness to ideas. The moderator reminded the audience these were student projects and that all questions should be kind. And resident gadfly Jim Nowacki confronted the panel on the glaring omission.
And you can see the response here: