Delay the Coolidge chimney demolition until October for the Chimney Swifts.
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The original Coolidge Elementary School building was built in 1928. A decision was made in 2016 to build a new school on the same property. The new building is needed and will serve our children well.
But demolishing the original structure—specifically the large, brick chimney—will displace more than 300 chimney swifts who migrate there each year and spend the summer building nests, raising their young, and preparing them for the return flight to Peru.
Chimney swifts are a federally protected species of bird. Their populations are in decline because of urban development and widespread use of insecticides. The colony of swifts that returns to Coolidge each year is unique because of its size, and it has become something of a sight-seeing and community-building attraction in recent weeks. Moreover, swifts provide a valuable ecological service—they eat about a third of their weight in insects every day. And they are models of effective community, with adult birds working together to raise the young. Their evening chatter as they return to the roost each dusk is an encouragement not only to members of the bird colony, but also to their human neighbors in the surrounding community.
We would like for decision-makers at Lansing School District 158 to see the Coolidge chimney swifts as a unique opportunity to be leveraged rather than a problem to be eliminated. With some reimagining of the plans and some readjusting of the construction schedule, the old chimney (and possibly the surrounding structure) could become a permanent nesting site for the birds and an education resource for the surrounding community. Repurposing some of the existing structure would result in fewer parking spots in the proposed parking lot, but imagine having a small learning center with information about swifts, ecology, migration, Peru, and even some history of the old school and the old chimney.
Community interest in the birds is already growing steadily, and with a little marketing, and some tie-ins to Fox Pointe, the Coolidge chimney swifts could attract birders, environmentalists, and curious families from throughout the area.
That’s our dream and our hope, but without access to the building, it’s difficult to get a sense of how feasible such an idea is. If it’s not possible to transform the existing structure into a habitat and learning center, we are hoping a new structure could be incorporated on the site—a makeshift Chimney Swift Tower that the colony could begin using next year.
The timing is critical. The Coolidge chimney swifts arrive each March, spend the summer in Lansing, and then depart in October to return to Peru. This year’s swifts have already begun laying their eggs, and in July the eggs will begin hatching. If construction continues, those eggs and fledglings will be destroyed.
The fledglings need all summer to develop the strength for their return migration. We would like for District 158 to take that into account and modify the timetable for the demolition they have planned.
Will you join us in being a voice for these birds? Will you join us in saving this large, social family of swifts, this colony that is unique to Lansing? Please sign this petition and join your neighbors in asking District 158 to modify their plans and make a home for the Coolidge chimney swifts.
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Julie Blackwood needs your help with “Lansing Illinois School District 158 School Board: Delay the Coolidge chimney demotion until October for the Chimney Swifts.”. Join Julie and 1,240 supporters today.