Planners Expect Big Things For Big Marsh On City's Southeast Side

Bernie Tafoya
January 21, 2020 - 2:04 pm
Big Marsh

Friends of Big Marsh


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Planners believe a recently announced state grant is going to make a Southeast Side park a "major attraction" and the “hub of nature” in the Calumet region in which people can see a wealth of migratory birds and other wildlife right in the city.
Big Marsh Park, at 116th and Stony Island Avenue, will receive $900,000 from the State of Illinois, part of $29.7 million in grants announced Friday.

"Big Marsh is by far our largest natural area. It’s nearly 300 acres," said Lauren Umek, project manager for the Chicago Park District. 

Umek said only 35 acres are accessible in the form of a trail and other amenities, but with the state grant, "it will give us multi-use trails, a paved, ashphalt trail that anyone can use on wheels or feet that will go throughout an entire 300-acre natural area and so, over water a few times, you see prairies, you see marshes."

One key new feature, Umek said, will be a wildlife observation platform.

"We’re going to have a platform that’ll be sort of over the water and give you an opportunity to have a nearly 360 degree view of the marsh, to be able to see marsh birds, egrets, herons," she said.

Big Marsh
Friends of Big Marsh

Umek said the park will give Chicagoans the feeling that they are immersed in nature.

Paul Fitzgerald, executive director of Friends of Big Marsh, said the grant is, "going to really make it so the entire park is worthy of a destination, that the entire park is something that’s worthy to check out...All these natural areas are places where migratory birds stop. They’re places where we can kind of get a sense of what the Calumet region looked like in the past.

Big Marsh
Friends of Big Marsh

Lauren Umek said the grant will help the Park District achieve a lot of the goals it has had for Big Marsh Park for a couple of years.

Friday, Governor JB Pritzker announced nearly $30 million in grants for 85 local park projects throughout the state.  The $900,000 Big Marsh Park grant is the largest of the grants, by far.