Bridgeport’s Stearns Quarry Park to open Memorial Day weekend
May 1, 2009
After years of planning and construction, Stearn's Quarry Park (located between Halsted Street and Poplar Avenue and 27th and 29th Streets) is slated to open Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Troy T Heinzeroth)

By Sarah Severson | May 2009

After years of planning, preparation, and construction, a large portion of Stearns Quarry Park will be open to the public on Memorial Day weekend, with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park soon after.

This 27-acre area in Bridgeport, located between Halsted Street and Poplar Avenue and 27th and 29th Streets, has been transformed from a landfill to a vibrant urban oasis since construction began in spring 2005. The design successfully preserves some of the space’s history while providing modern green space and recreation for the community.

Used as a limestone quarry from 1833 to 1969, the site eventually became a municipal landfill where dirt, gravel, brick, and other clean construction materials filled in about three quarters of the excavated hole over the span of 15 years.

To begin turning this space into a park, the Chicago Park District secured a Landfill Closure Permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and started the first phase, which included constructing retainer walls, moving dirt, installing a liner for the fishing pond and wetland areas, putting in storm water piping, and rough grading. In addition, the park district planted acres of plants and hundreds of trees.

The second phase involved construction on the park, installing more than 40,000 cubic yards of topsoil along with pathways, boardwalks, guardrails, fences, and lighting. While the design has stayed true to the original plan, the project has faced a few hurdles that slowed completion.

The 27-acre Stearns Quarry Park will open to the public Memorial Day weekend.
“This is such a large and complex project,” said Claudine Malik, project manager for the Chicago Park District. “Weather and some construction issues have caused some delays. Closing a landfill also added to the complexity, as we were following the EPA’s and City of Chicago’s regulations.”

Landfill guidelines included finding an appropriate source of clay and topsoil and performing extensive tests throughout construction. The finished park will provide a fishing pond and fountain, an athletic field, terraced wetlands and plantings, running paths, a hiking and sledding mound, and a multiuse open space for community events. It also will present a collection of 400-million-year-old fossils, most of small aquatic animals.

The park’s design includes native plants such as black-eyed susans, cosmos, poppies, and prairie grasses, which will reduce the need for fertilizers and herbicides.

The Chicago Park District has incorporated environmentally conscious features such as a storm water containment system that collects and treats rainwater, then channels it to the park’s wetlands and pond. The boardwalk is made from recycled plastic and wood particles, and the waterfall’s base and the steps to the fishing pond include pieces of concrete and foundation reclaimed from other City projects.

Final touches that remain to be finished include interior metal work for the railings, guard rails, fishing pier, and walkway, but the project as a whole is nearly complete. A unique aspect is a varied terrain allowing visitors to hike to the highest point of the park on a mound that reaches 35 feet above street level.

James Balcer, 11th Ward alderman, grew up in the neighborhood and remembers trucks hauling stone in and out of the area. Although Balcer’s great grandfather died while working in the quarry decades ago, the alderman demonstrated plenty of excitement about the renovated site’s new park.

“There is a spectacular view from the top,” he said. “You can see the buildings downtown, U.S. Cellular Field, and Soldier Field.”

One Response »

  1. I really enjoyed the portion of the park that was open over Memorial Day Weekend. I wonder if the park district plans to install fountains for drinking water, and I noticed that there are no trash cans anywhere and there appeared to be trash about the area? This is a great addition to Bridgeport and plan many more visits.

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