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Harborside International Golf Course

Chicago, Illinois

Land Reclamation Success

Formerly a 220-acre garbage dump, this property on the south side of Chicago was converted in the early 1990s to recreational use by the Illinois International Port District (Port of Chicago). The facility is now home to Harborside, a popular 36-hole public golf course, golf teaching facility and clubhouse. The project is built on lands within Port properties on the shoreline of Lake Calumet. The landfill had been historically used by other local agencies for refuse disposal, fly ash disposal, wastewater sludge and had been a source of undocumented dumping for decades. The entire project covers 458 acres.

An Innovative Solution

With normal industrial/commercial development not being technically feasible, the Port District developed an innovative solution for a recreational and income-producing concept for the site. Before development, it was necessary to provide an impervious clay cap for the landfill.  Geotechnical investigations identified the lake bottom of nearby Lake Calumet as a source for this material. Before the over 600,000 cubic yards of clay could be removed, the lake had to be partially diked off and drained.  Approximately 200,000 fish were removed from the lake and 25,000 of the higher quality fish were relocated. In addition, construction was staged to avoid nesting season for migratory birds. Approximately 5.5 acres of mitigated wetlands were created and approximately 15,000 feet of shoreline were planted and vegetated. Stormwater management included detention for a 10-year storm and included a network of ponds, vegetated swales and storm sewers to reduce impact to overloaded sewers in the surrounding communities.

Putting Wastewater Sludge to Use

The construction of Harborside also utilized 500,000 cubic yards of wastewater sludge from the nearby Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. This material was used for mounding and land formation and was also used as the substrate for the fairways and rough areas. Additional sludge was relocated within the site. It is estimated that more than 2 million cubic yards of soil was moved on site. Sand was blended with the sludge to function as the “topsoil” for the site. Lake Calumet is the source for irrigation water. No potable drinking water is used for irrigation. The sophisticated irrigation system minimizes the amounts of waters used and assures that the water stays within the Lake Calumet watershed

Myriad Benefits

Harborside has improved the local environment, eliminated a visual eyesore and source of noxious odors, and has helped to diversify and stimulate Chicago’s south side economy. Total cost of the project was well over $20 million. Today, golf course fees provide the Port District with an important source of revenue. It is also a source of jobs and tax revenue to an area of the City of Chicago that has experienced high unemployment. The golf course receives no funding from taxable entities within the State, County or City.