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Land Reclaimed, Piece by Piece

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As rain begins to fall in earnest, those of us sheltered in the Inventory Tent have begun to reminisce about the beautiful evening we shared last night, when many of the scientists lending their energy and expertise to the BioBlitz converged on the Portage Riverfront and Lakewalk. This sparkling new facility—nestled between dunes, train tracks, and a steel plant—is a microcosm of the fragmented landscape that typifies the National Lakeshore.

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Just a few years ago, this place was devastated by industry. Now, what was once a heavy metal sludge pond storing hazardous waste for the National Steel Company is a Gold LEED certified lakefront pavilion. Land once permeated with sulphuric acid is freshly restored and pristine, boasting a fishing pier, biking trails, and a lovely view of the Chicago skyline. It seemed a fitting spot to nail down strategies for inspiring a greater appreciation of nature and perhaps, for a few kids and teens, lifelong careers in the natural sciences or with the park service.

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Photographs by Ford Cochran