The northern portion of the McDowell Grove Forest Preserve near Naperville has reopened following completion of remedial work along the West Branch of the DuPage River, DuPage Forest Preserve officials said.
The main entrance and a reconstructed parking lot on Raymond Drive again are open to visitors who can explore more than five miles of trails passing through mature woodlands and open fields.
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Anglers can try their skills at Mud Lake and along the shores of the river, where newly created banks will offer easier access to the water. Paddlers can use a new canoe launch off the parking lot.
Two facilities at the preserve, the picnic shelter and open picnic area, will remain closed until summer 2013 or whenever suitable turf has been established.
"Visitors will notice a few areas fenced off to allow turf grass and native plantings to grow," said Jay Johnson, a site manager for the forest preserve district. "Though the remediation work is complete, we will all be able to watch the preserve transform into a healthier natural area as plant plugs grow along the riverbanks and wildlife moves into the newly restored areas."
The project is part of large-scale cleanup and restoration work taking place along a stretch of the West Branch of the DuPage River. The thorium deposits originated from a former gaslight manufacturing plant that operated in West Chicago beginning in the 1930s. Contaminated soils were found buried under layers of clean sediment in the river's banks and in flood plains.
During the restoration, contaminated soils were removed and the river was enhanced with rocky material to increase oxygen levels and improve aquatic habitat for fish and invertebrates. Thousands of plantings were added to stabilize riverbanks and provide habitat for wildlife.
Like other DuPage County forest preserves, McDowell Grove is open daily from one hour after sunrise to one hour after sunset. For information, call the district's Visitor Services department weekdays at (630) 933-7248.