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August 14, 1999

Ryan Uses High Tech To Open Brookfield Zoo's Salt Creek Exhibit

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today electronically "cut" the ribbon for a new exhibit at Brookfield Zoo from the Illinois State Fair's "Tech Town" -- opening the zoo's "Salt Creek Wilderness."

"To be a witness to technology and natural history at the same time makes one stop and reflect on what we can accomplish when federal, state and private entities work together," Ryan said.

"What we accomplished is the establishment of the Salt Creek Wilderness Project. Today, through a special communication link and interface with experts at Brookfield Zoo, we can experience a natural wonder hundreds of miles away.

A team of zoo staff has worked for several years with a variety of public and private partners to improve the water quality of a four-acre lake at the zoo and to create an adjacent one-acre demonstration wetland exhibit in a wooded area at the west end of the park. The wetland exhibit, Dragonfly Marsh, officially opened today.

The 10-acre site has been renamed Salt Creek Wilderness to reflect the diversity of environments - Salt Creek, Indian Lake, Dragonfly Marsh, and the woodlands.

The zoo's objective in restoring this area is to enhance its biological functions and to provide quality habitat for native and migratory species. In addition, Salt Creek

Wilderness provides an enjoyable and dynamic immersion adventure for zoo guests and willl increase awareness about the importance of protecting local species and natural habitats.

To improve the water quality of the Indian Lake, the zoo installed an aeration system, which helps circulate the water and increase oxygen levels. The woodlands around the lake were thinned to provide more light for the hundreds of shoreline plants that were added. The roots of these plants will help reduce shoreline erosion and keep the water cleaner by trapping sediments, pollutants, and nutrients like phosphorus.

Just north of Indian Lake is Dragonfly Marsh, a one-acre demonstration wetland created to introduce guests to a typical northeastern Illinois wetland. More than 50 percent of the wetlands that once covered 221 million acres in the continental United States have been lost. Some states, like Illinois, have lost up to 90% of their wetlands.

Dragonfly Marsh consists of two deep pools, an emergent aquatic area, sedge meadow, wet prairie and prairie. Water is pumped from Indian Lake into the pools and then flows and percolates through the soils. An 85-foot boardwalk, constructed of wood from tropical ipe trees, overlooks the wetland.

Salt Creek Wilderness is a tremendous educational tool that encourages zoo guests to explore and understand the complex relationships among water, plants, wildlife, and people in their local environments. Brookfield Zoo hopes that after visiting the exhibit, guests will be motivated to protect the natural world by incorporating environmentally friendly actions into their everyday lives.


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