2020 Goal: Expanded Chicago Park District natural areas

Chris Bentley

Chicago Park District natural areas, like Hegewish Marsh, offer a way to see and learn about plants and wildlife within the city.

Led by Mayor Emanuel's "Building on Burnham" vision, we will double the acreage of designated natural areas along our rivers.

Led by Mayor Emanuel’s “Building on Burnham” vision, we will double the acreage of designated natural areas along our rivers. This will greatly increase access to nature in our region’s urban core and achieve a target of 2,020 acres by 2020. These spaces will provide ample opportunities for recreation, stewardship and education about the region’s unique natural environments. They also will create invaluable habitats for migratory birds, rare plants and spawning fish and mussels.

Day in and day out, students, families and tourists will visit Chicago Park District’s designated riverfront natural areas. As these spaces are revived, they will become popular destinations for bird watching, bike riding and outdoor education. Students will learn first-hand about the plants and animals that make up prairies, woodlands and wetlands, as well as the importance these ecosystems have in our region. The Park District will cultivate local stewardship groups and engage neighboring communities in planning before and during site acquisition, remediation and development.

Making it happen

  • Identify gaps in access to natural areas within Chicago, and develop land acquisition or site naturalization plans accordingly.
  • Expedite the transfer of Mittal Woods, Dead Stick Pond, Heron Pond, Hyde Lake and other priority conservation targets to public control.
  • Engage neighboring communities in planning for natural areas expansion. Identify whether passive recreational activities—such as bird watching—are compatible with ecosystem needs on a site-by-site basis.
  • Cultivate local stewardship groups for existing and new natural areas.
  • Integrate wetlands and riparian zones into the natural areas program.

Key players

Chicago Park District, Park Advisory Councils and local stewardship groups,  Friends of the Chicago River, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Friends of the Parks, Chicago Parks Foundation

Our rivers, our role

  • Visit designated natural areas in a park near your home.
  • Work with your local Park Advisory Council or volunteer stewardship group to determine whether areas of existing parks or other land in your community might be suitable for conservation or conversion to a designated natural area.

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