Cemeteries are a waste of space in Chicago. The manicured lawns don’t foster wildlife, and the morbid atmosphere doesn’t exactly draw a crowd. So it’s a real shame that there’s a few thousand acres of prime Chicago real estate that isn’t fitting for (living) people or urban wildlife. But this year, the Chicago Park District worked hard to dedicate a sliver of the land to something we can all enjoy.
I’m calling it a ‘secret’ nature preserve, because there was almost no press or information on it for most of 2015. Even the formal ‘ribbon cutting’ was swept under the rug. On April 3rd of 2015, DNAinfo.com wrote an article, “Chicago’s New Nature Preserve at Western and Peterson is Taking Shape.” And they later posted that it was slated to open on August 1. In late September, I took a trek to check it out.
Here’s the facts:
- It covers 20 acres
- $7.8 million investment
- Entrance is on Ardmore and Western
- The land will take 4-5 years to settle back into ‘native vegetation’ after a massive clearing of invasive species
- The lake will be stocked with bluegill and catfish
Though the Chicago Park District did a formal opening at the end of September, there’s still a lot of work to be done. I really hope they follow through and give it the attention it needs. But with Chicago’s traditionally disorganized park maintenance, I’m not sure how much hope I give it. For example, the picture below was taken at the end of September. Freshly potted plants ready for planting… just in time for the October cold snap.
But other parts look sort of nice and well-done.
However, the pond is a shallow puke-green mud pit. It needs to be dredged. Badly. Especially if they really do plan on putting kayaks in there.
But there is a nice walkway around it…
Anyway, minor complaints aside, it is a cool spot. Er, it will be a cool spot once the vegetation sets in and we get any clarity in the water. I’d say go this fall to check it out, and then go back in a few years once it’s a bit more filled-out.
I’d hardly call it a hidden gem, or even a diamond in the rough. In it’s current state, it’s a mud puddle with a walkway, but with a lot of time, maintenance, and restoration, it could eventually become a decent pocket of restored native land, off one of the busiest streets in Chicago.