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Lyman Woods’ beaver dam notched due to flooding concerns

Published: Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 11:18 a.m. CDT
A hiker walks the trail at Lyman Woods in Downers Grove on Monday. A newly built beaver dam had flooded a portion of the trail at the park most of the summer. Mark Busch -

DOWNERS GROVE – Beavers have been busy building dams in Lyman Woods this summer, spurring a debate between the park district and a resident about whether the park district should interfere with wildlife in the woods.

Beavers build the structures to pool water as protection from predators, but heavy rains can often turn into flooding when water can’t pass through the dams.

That happened earlier this month, when dammed water flooded the soccer fields of nearby Midwestern University, according to the university’s director of operations Kevin McCormick.

“There was probably 2 to 3 inches laying across the soccer fields,” he said.

Midwestern University called the park district, and district workers cut three notches in the woods’ second beaver dam to allow water to pass.

“If the dam is not notched, the water will begin to back up in surrounding areas,” Downers Grove Park District Spokeswoman Brandi Beckley said. “We’ve let our trails flood so that the beavers could coexist on that property. If we were concerned about flooding our property, it could be removed. But that’s not our goal. Our goal is to coexist with the beavers in their natural habitat.”

Downers Grove resident and regular Lyman Woods hiker Charles Smith has enjoyed watching the beavers work on their home, and was not pleased when he saw the notches in the dam. He said Lyman Woods is not a place to interfere with the animals.

“A lot of people think that a woods should be a park,” he said. “And it’s not. It’s wildlife. We should let nature do what it wants to do.”

Smith said he doesn’t mind that the dammed water obscures the walking path.

“The beavers are doing no damage to anybody,” he said. “And if the water is a little deeper and it covers the hiker’s path a little bit, I think that’s something that us humans can deal with.”

According to Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist Bob Bluett, property owners are allowed to modify beaver dams without a permit unless the person is a fur trapper making a notch in the damn to trap the animals.

“Other than those situations, there would be nothing to prevent you from notching or modifying the dam,” he said.

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