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July 30, 2015
MUSEUM CAMPUS — The Field Museum wants to tear down dozens of linden trees in its front yard and replace them with new landscaping, a plan that's already sowed discord with neighboring Grant Park.
The Field, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, envisions a "vibrant set of habitats, shimmering with colors that change through the seasons, and rich with native plants that attract birds, butterflies, and many other pollinators," Debra Moskovits, the museum's vice president of science and education, said in an e-mail. "The landscape will bring our exhibitions out of doors, and will complement our institution's architecture."
The project, which requires Chicago Park District approval, is still in its planning stages. But the plan has already "hit a snag" with Grant Park Conservancy President Bob O'Neill, who thinks removing the linden trees would come at too high a cost to the Field's immediate environs.
"There are hundreds of other acres to do more prairie and savannah plantings and more native landscapes in Grant Park," he said. "We're working on a solution, but the linden trees would be a tough sell."
Moskovits said the museum would replace the lindens with mature Bur oaks that have 80-foot canopies, as well as perennials and prairie plants. One reason the Field wants to remove the lindens: their thick canopies prevent light from reaching the soil and allowing underlying plants to grow. She also believes the new trees would absorb more stormwater and be more sustainable.
"The resulting savanna landscape [would] offer on-site opportunities for examining the benefits of ecological restoration not just by scientists, but also by families, school children, and casual visitors," she wrote.
More than 100 linden trees were planted in front of the Field's north entrance in 1999 to beautify what was then the new Museum Campus. But the number and density of trees quickly drew criticism that they blocked views of the Field's "grand, neo-classical edifice." O'Neill said he would be somewhat receptive to removing the lindens if they were replaced with other trees.
The museum has already met several times with O'Neill's conservancy, and plans meetings with other groups before presenting its vision to the park district. The project has no timeline or budget yet. Park District Spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner did not have an immediate comment.