Plans for Gun Range Ruffle Conservationists

Conservationists' last plea to save bird nesting area

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board Thursday voted 5-4 to allow the Chicago Police Department to build a shooting range on a piece of contested land.

Reclamation board president Terry O'Brien cast the deciding vote.

CPD officials plan to build their facility on a space across the Calumet River from the Hegewisch Marsh, located near 2025 E. 134th Street. The MWRD board gave them a 39-year lease for the 33-acre plot of lands. 

Conservationists, like the Calumet Ecological Park Association, are upset by the plan and urged the water district board to block it. About 14 citizens attended the board meeting to speak in opposition of the gun range.

They want to turn to the area, known as a wildlife breeding ground for the great blue heron, into a into a environmental tourist attraction.

Chicago police like the area because it is surrounded on three sides by landfills and is at least a mile from residential tracts.

Police officials said seized drug money will pay for the shooting range. Other police departments would be allowed access to the facility.

Last month Gov. Pat Quinn promised to preserve nearby wetlands and abandoned industrial sites for open space, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. Mayor Rahm Emanuel supports the idea to conserve the space for wilderness.

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