Midwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America

Chicago's Montrose Dunes: International Coastal Cleanup Day

October 3, 2011

With over 1.3 million visitors per year, Chicago's Montrose Beach and Harbor rank among the most heavily used public areas along Illinois' Lake Michigan Coastal Area. Nevertheless, this park land also includes two very important areas for migratory birds. First, and perhaps best known of these to Chicagoans is the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, more popularly known as "The Magic Hedge."

This wooded area attracts numerous species and countless individuals of migratory perching birds that stopover while using the western shore of Lake Michigan as a flyway. No less important is the more recently formed, and lesser known Montrose Beach Dune. Located between the Magic Hedge and Lake Michigan, Montrose Beach Dune began to take shape as a natural area in the late 1990s. In that short period of time, protection by the landowner (The Chicago Park District), and an active volunteer stewardship group have allowed nearly 11 acres of high dune habitat to grow. The native coastal grasses and other plants effectively increase the importance of the entire Montrose Beach area by drawing and holding large numbers of migrating shorebirds in spring and fall, including the federally endangered Great lakes Piping Plover.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Chicago Illinois Field Office coordinates our activities with the Illinois Private Lands Office to deliver the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program (PFW) to customers in northeast Illinois. Within this largely urban or urbanizing environment, we work closely with, and provide technical assistance as well as occasional cost-share funding to private landowners, local park and conservation districts, and nongovernmental organizations who are interested in improving habitats for Service trust resources such as migratory birds, interjurisdictional fishes, and endangered species. In northeast Illinois, one major focus of the USFWS has been identifying remaining opportunities to work with partners in the coastal zone of Lake Michigan to benefit migratory birds including the federally endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover.

On Saturday Sept. 17, 2011 hundreds of volunteers helped to celebrate International Coastal Cleanup Day by picking up debris at Montrose Beach. Project Leader Louise Clemency and Private Lands Biologist/Habitat Restoration Coordinator Mike Redmer at the Chicago Illinois Field Office also joined the ranks of the dedicated and more specialized group of volunteers who are stewards of the Montrose Dune. The dune stewards planned a host of activities including hand pulling of invasive plant species, planting plugs of several species of native dune plants and erecting rabbit fencing around several species of rare plants. The volunteer stewards were also rewarded with an impromptu visit and encouragement by Congressman Mike Quigley (IL- 5).

The event also marked the beginning of a Cooperative Agreement between the Chicago Park District and the USFWS to expand on the great volunteer stewardship. The cost-share arrangement will provide funding through PFW and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to contract a larger scale and more concerted effort to remove invasive species from Montrose Beach Dune in 2011 and 2012. Collectively, the dune area and Magic Hedge provide an unparalleled "urban oasis" for migratory birds of all shapes and sizes. The USFWS and stakeholders believe that, when the Montrose Beach Dune Enhancement project is completed, the stage will be set for this oasis to be effectively managed for benefit of wildlife and people for many years to come.

Learn more about USFWS Ecological Services: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Chicago/ploverspotlight.htm

View photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest/sets/72157627684273367/

The Montrose Beach Dune Habitat (foreground) is a high-quality habitat nestled between Lake Michigan and the north side of the City of Chicago (buildings seen in the background). - Photo Credit: Photo by Louise Clemency/USFWS.
The Montrose Beach Dune Habitat (foreground) is a high-quality habitat nestled between Lake Michigan and the north side
of the City of Chicago (buildings seen in the background).
Photo by Louise Clemency/USFWS.

Last updated: June 15, 2016