Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ah, Grasshopper: You Must Look at the Meadow to Understand the Waves

When the revetment was originally installed in the 1930s, the meadow (the grass behind the stones) reached almost to the top of the stone. When you walk on the edge of the meadow today, alongside the top limestone step, the grass is considerably "sunken:"
That represents a lot of lost sand and dirt: In some places, large objects are falling into the sunken areas, trees and weeds are growing (because the Park District lawn mowers are worried they'll fall in), and caves are forming under the stones. My brother-in-law lost his Jack Russell Terrier down this particular hole, and I'm not kidding:

Once again, I'm not a physicist or an engineer, but this isn't rocket science. The wave action under the unsupported revetment eats away the land below the limestone blocks, and the sand and dirt from the meadow erode into the lake.

Let's look at this example. This is what you see from the lake side --
I know it's tiny on your screen, but if you peer at it you'll see that in this spot the wood pilings, the steel girders, and the limestone blocks in the water are gone in many places, and there's an old cement slab hastily poured as a "repaired" promenade. The slab looks like icing on a cake -- thick, black icing on a cake that has giant bite marks in it. Mmm...cake...

Now, imagine east-wind waves smacking this shoreline, and washing right under that icing, wave after rhythmic wave.

This is what results on the other side of that section of revetment:

It's much more dramatic in person, and it would be even more dramatic if you pulled out those teenage trees that are growing in the sunken area, so that you could see how deep it is.

Try this test yourself: walk along the edge of the meadow, near the limestone blocks. Everywhere that you find the ground is especially sunken, scramble over the limestone blocks and really look at what's on the other side. I bet you'll find damaged girders, missing pilings, caves, and tumbled limestone on the lake side.

In fact, I'll bet my brother-in-law's Jack Russell Terrier on it.


Peter Rossi said...

Save the Point translates into Save the Holes.

Anyone who thinks that the Point revetment isn't in sad shape hasn't looked at these pics.

Turning down $20+ milliion in public funds to repair and restore one of the truly unique parts of Hyde Park has to go down as one of the all time biggest mistakes

Peter Rossi said...

one more minor point: the "meadow" is often used to refer to the central portion of the Point (the part enclosed by the pathways).

I think you mean that the landscaping (lawn and other plantings) were orginally graded to meet the top of the revetment. A great deal of erosion has occurred over the years, leaving the space very different than the landscape architect, Alfred Caldwell, intended.

This is one of the crowning ironies of the Point Savers. They are actually anti-Caldwell because the oppose changes that would bring the Point closer back to the way he originally designed it.

Caldwell toured the Point in some time around 20 years ago. He was heard to comment "this isn't a Park -- it's a pile of dirt."

The "preservationists" are actually deconstructionists!

Of course, that is the classic NIMBY attitude -- anything I'm familiar with is great. Any change is bad.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Yes, I stand corrected. Caldwell's use of the term "meadow" in this park referred specifically to the middle of the park. In this article I used "meadow" in a less technical way, to denote the grassy area of the park in general. But you're right -- maybe "lawn" would have been a better term, but then my homage to Master Po in the title wouldn't have been half as poetic.

curtsy said...

Perhaps (recognizing the Devil that the Burnham Plan is) the Point Savers' point is not to bring the Promontory closer to Caldwell's vision but back to its pre-landfill condition!

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