Residents unhappy with landscaping pace
BY MICHAEL GONZALEZ Post-Tribune correspondent September 7, 2013 10:30PM
Updated: October 9, 2013 7:48PM
GARY — Officials working on the $28.2 million overhaul of Marquette Park Lakefront East project urged residents to be patient in the last weeks of landscaping work along the beach, but that message appeared to be a tough sell recently.
“They owe us grass,” said Lynn Navarro, a founder of Miller Capacitors, a local group that adopted a portion of the park around a new concession stand. “It’s a hot mess out there.”
Since project contractors removed concrete to open space for landscaping, some grass and other vegetation have grown in, but some residents said the grassy areas are unusable because they are covered with sand burs, commonly called “sticker bugs.”
City Planning Director Dwayne Williams and Joel Baldin, of Hitchcock Group, the lead design contractor, said contractors have been weeding the area, reseeding and planting new plants. They said it will take time for the new growth to fully develop.
“All we did was pull concrete out of the way to make green space,” Williams said. “Whatever soil is there was already there.
“It’s scheduled to be landscaped, but it just hasn’t been completed yet. Weeds will pop up anywhere.”
Weeds have invaded the area, but most of the complaints come from the location, Baldin said. The park is the main gem of a once extensive Gary park system, and the site includes lakefront beaches, a highly revered aquatorium and the Marquette Park Pavilion.
“Unfortunately, it’s one of the most highly visible spots in the area,” Baldin said.
Information obtained by The Post-Tribune indicates landscaping contractor J.F. New should already be planting marram grass, a native species, and evaluating the area for seeding. The memo also indicates J.F. New’s work is under a two-year warranty.
Gary parks board member and professional horticulturist William Miller called the soil along that stretch of the park “deplorable.” He said the soil includes steel mill slag, and grassy areas are covered with the sand burs and more.
“It seems to me somebody is not doing their homework,” Miller said. “They should have remediated the soil and laced organic material and good quality seed.”
Williams said he welcomes help from residents like Navarro and the Miller Capacitors. Navarro said the group, including her two children, have spend days pulling weeds and trying to clean the area.
“Now we know how to keep that little area up, but there’s just a tremendous amount of weeds out there,” she said. “In all honesty, once that weed problem is solved, the park will be perfect.”