At one time the heart of Chicago and global industry, the Calumet region is a surprising host to many uncommon species of wildlife; bald eagles, black-crowned night herons and Blanding’s turtles are all endangered or protected animals which call the area home for some or all of the year. Additionally, forty percent of Illinois endangered plants can be found in parks, preserves and open land within Calumet. The area holds great potential to become a regionally and nationally recognized place for wildlife habitat restoration and wildlife conservation. Its grand open spaces and historic wetlands are also promising for the development of land and water trails unparalleled in an urban setting. These elements together form the basis for creating the Calumet Open Space Reserve, a plan bringing together state and local agencies to protect and enhance 3,900 acres of important wetland, forest and prairie habitat. An emphasis of the Reserve is connectivity – both in the form of trails for human use, and greenway corridors allowing wildlife to safely cross wider swaths of land without the risks posed by roadways and industrial plants. The Chicago Park District owns and manages over 800 of these acres while the remaining land is split between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Hegewisch Marsh Park is also a premiere site for hemi marsh and wetland birds, as well as other wildlife, such as deer, beavers, and amphibians.