Fishing Teams Continue Lake Sedgwick Tradition

Fishing Teams Continue Lake Sedgwick Tradition
Posted on 11/14/2018
A local tradition continues at an Orland Park body of water.A local tradition continues at an Orland Park body of water. The bass fishing teams from Victor J. Andrew and Carl Sandburg High Schools have again created fish cribs for the Village of Orland Park’s 75-acre Lake Sedgwick at Centennial Park, 15600 West Avenue.   
“This cooperative project between the village and District 230 began five years ago,” said Trustee Dan Calandriello, chair of the village’s Recreation and Parks Committee. “We appreciate all that the coaches and kids from Andrew and Sandburg have done to help Lake Sedgwick. I think it’s great that years of kids now have vested interests in their community.”  

Named in the early 90s for Orland Park’s original train depot, Lake Sedgwick dates back to the mid-19th Century when Thomas Cooper (1821-1897) and others purchased land patents in the State of Illinois.

On Monday, November 12, members of the two schools’ teams gathered to create cribs that will be installed in the spring.   Fish cribs provide shelter for fish populations. They are created with gallon buckets of cement holding long pieces of plastic pipes. Aquatic vegetation eventually attaches to the cribs and further helps the shelters, improving oxygen levels in the water.
“We are grateful for the opportunity that the Village of Orland Park has given our high school fishing clubs again this year,” said Andrew Bass Fishing Coach John Bartgen, the social studies teacher who first proposed the cooperative effort five years ago. “Allowing our kids and clubs to use Lake Sedgwick as our outdoor classroom has given D230 students a hands-on approach to see the ‘bigger picture’ of fishing, which is conservation.”

Andrew High School Bass Fishing Coach David Arndt, also a social studies teacher, has been involved since the beginning.  “Lake Sedgwick has been our ‘home field’ for years now and it’s been a blessing for the Andrew and Sandburg Bass Fishing Programs,” Arndt said. “Over the years, both programs have had quite a few students move on to take what they’ve learned from this project to the next level in bass fishing. An important part of getting to that next level requires a deeper understanding of different species of fish and their habitats. That’s where this project with Lake Sedgwick comes in and as coaches, we think’s its vital. It gives all of us the opportunity to understand things in a larger way than simply catching fish.”

Explaining the purpose of fish cribs, Sandburg High School Bass Fishing Coach Jim Corcoran said, “The fish cribs act as fish habitat and become a complete mini reef ecosystem to grow plankton and attract minnows and other food sources for the game fish in Lake Sedgwick. This is the third round of crib building the clubs have completed.” 

Lake Sedgewick is part of the Orland Park’s 64 park system and is under the auspices of the village’s Parks Department.
“Orland Park is grateful to the teams from Andrew and Sandburg for all they’ve done for the past five years,” said village Parks Director Gary Couch. “We’ve enjoyed working with the coaches and the kids who have come through and we thank our own Ron Beaudry for facilitating everything on the village’s end. Ron took ownership of the program and it’s a great cooperative effort.”

“Anglers should be able to reap the benefits of these cribs by next summer,” Corcoran said, adding, “Our efforts to enhance the lake ecosystem have helped both the lake and its users as well as the students from our clubs.”

Corcoran noted that the joint effort at Lake Sedgewick follows District 230’s S4 Initiative.   “This is a way to get students to connect with the real world and learn outside of the classroom as they learn about fish ecology and fisheries management,” the science teacher said.

Over the years, ownership of the land now occupied by Lake Sedgwick and the rest of Centennial Park passed through some of the oldest names in Orland Park history --- Cooper, Hewson, Humphrey, Gee and Beemsterboer.  The Gee family began acquiring some of the land now covered by Lake Sedgwick around 1915. An 1834 government survey shows an extensive marsh once stretched across the Gees’ first land acquisition and beyond.

The Gees added more acreage to their holding, eventually creating a thriving vegetable farm.  It was not until the late 1930s that the Gee family discovered that their fields covered a large deposit of marketable humus, a remnant of the ancient marsh. Humus is a dark-brown or black material created by the partial decomposition of organic matter.

In the early 1950s, the Beemsterboer family moved its earth excavating business to Orland Park, eventually acquiring some 450 acres bordering the Gee farm. The Beemsterboers and Gees then competed in the expanding Chicago-area humus market with an important customer being the Chicago Park District. Humus removal continued until the mid-1980s.  The water filled hollow created by excavation was transected by narrow strips of access road and stretched from the railroad on the west almost to West Avenue on the east.

The bass fishing teams have created fish cribs for the village’s man-made lake three times over the past five years. They’ve installed brush piles and brought in other agencies to help with the lake.

“Helping students better understand how to preserve our community resources such as Lake Sedgwick has brought our students in contact with local officials, lake management professionals, marine biologists, Department of Natural Resources officers and a host of other people in the field of conservation,” Bartgen said.

An avid angler, Ron Beaudry, of the village’s Building Maintenance Division, has been the village’s liaison with the school district for each of the lake projects.  “We are very happy with all that the fishing teams have done for the village,” Beaudry said. “They’ve help build up the structure of the lake. They brought out two agencies --- the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and a private lake management company --- to shock the lake to help the kids identify what fish we have and to help all of us learn about the health of the fish population.”

Beaudry thanked Orland Park’s Lowe’s and Home Depot Stores for donating the supplies for the most recent fish crib project.
In 1989, the Village of Orland Park purchased the land and made plans to transform the lake and land to the north, west and east into what is now Centennial Park. The park was dedicated in 1992 during the village’s Centennial Celebration. Pieces of the land’s history remain with the lake’s peninsula --- once the south end of an access road used by humus excavators.   
Bartgen noted the many learning opportunities the Andrew and Sandburg students have enjoyed.

“This ongoing project has enabled our students to be actively engaged in math, science, research and the history of the lake to better understand where to place this next round of fish cribs,” Bartgen said. “Kids aren’t just learning how to fish --- they are being exposed to many potential career paths available to those who enjoy fishing and being outdoors.”

Corcoran added, “So far, we have had great success and we will continue our efforts of conservation education and restoration alongside the Village of Orland Park.”

Arndt said, “The project also allows us to study Lake Sedgwick for many years and watch the positive changes that take place --- this isn't just a once a year thing.  We want the community, our schools, and our students to return to Lake Sedgwick with their families and friends having a sense of pride and appreciation for this beautiful lake.”