Chicago Parks: Dunes, Prairies, Savannas, Woodlands & Wetlands!

 
 Community Steward Madiem Kawa leads Washington Park volunteers in a planting activity 

Community Steward Madiem Kawa leads Washington Park volunteers in a planting activity 

 McKinley Park stewardship volunteers gather for a group photo after a successful trail building day

McKinley Park stewardship volunteers gather for a group photo after a successful trail building day

This week we welcome Forrest Cortes and Jason Steger, two members of the Chicago Park District Natural Areas team to discuss natural spaces in Chicago. Learn how you can get involved.

 Volunteers of all ages joined in for a tree planting event at Burnham Nature Sanctuary

Volunteers of all ages joined in for a tree planting event at Burnham Nature Sanctuary

When most people think of dunes, prairies, savannas, woodlands, and wetlands, they imagine faraway landscapes and vast nature preserves.  What many Chicagoans do not realize is that these ecosystems are found here in the city, often within a short walk, bike ride, or transit commute from their own homes.  Chicago Park District maintains over 60 natural areas, altogether creating over 1,400 acres of habitat in the city. These natural areas, found within neighborhood parks, or standing alone, improve the urban environment, conserve native plants and wildlife, and provide a space for Chicagoans to connect with nature, as part of Mayor Emanuel’s Building on Burnham Plan. These spaces give back to the communities around them, but they also depend on the surrounding communities. In 2015 alone, over 7,000 community volunteers working in cooperation with CPD staff and contractors contributed over 24,000 hours of restoration work to the natural areas program.

 Community Steward Jaclyn Peterson leads a pre-workday nature walk to introduce volunteers to native species around the Humboldt Park lagoon

Community Steward Jaclyn Peterson leads a pre-workday nature walk to introduce volunteers to native species around the Humboldt Park lagoon

Community involvement is critical to the long-term sustainability of Chicago’s natural areas.  During monthly workdays, volunteers help remove invasive (“weedy”) species, plant native species, build trails, clean up litter,and monitor plant and animal species of interest. The community stewardship program introduces volunteers to native Illinois flora and fauna, increases awareness of environmental issues such as biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration, and creates a connection between the community and Chicago’s natural history. By sharing this experience with friends and neighbors, volunteers play an important role in fostering an environmental ethic in their community.

Chicago Park District’s community stewardship program has grown in recent years, but so has the acreage and number of natural areas in the city. Whether you have experience in ecology and restoration, event coordination, environmental education, or just a desire to volunteer and give back to your community, there is a role for you within the program. For more information and to get involved with regularly scheduled workdays, click here.

For specific questions, to schedule a group workday, or to inquire about taking on a larger volunteer role in the stewardship program, please contact the Community Stewardship Program Manager at forrest.cortes@chicagoparkdistrict.com.


Chicago Parks Foundation & Natural Areas

 The natural area at Northerly Island, Camp Northerly 2015

The natural area at Northerly Island, Camp Northerly 2015

Camp Northerly – CPF’s signature adult camping event – takes place on Northerly Island, the home of one of Chicago’s natural areas. In addition to beverages from Goose Island, a delicious dinner from Chop Shop, desserts from Eli’s CheesecakeClif Bars, and Dark Matter Coffee, guests will enjoy a tour of the Northerly Island nature area. The nature area at Northerly Island features beautiful strolling paths, casual play areas and a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline. Click here to register for Camp Northerly.

 

 
Jennie Scheerer