Mindful Metropolis June 2010 : Page 18

a WALK on the WILDSIDE The Lincoln Park Zoo debuts its eco—and visitor-friendly Nature Boardwalk by caitlin murray giles T he Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to an- nounce it’s newest arrival—but it isn’t what you might think. After over a year-and-a-half of demolition and construc- tion, the Lincoln Park Zoo plans to unveil the new interactive, multi-sensory Nature Boardwalk to the public on June 24. This 14- acre space where the dilapidated South Pond once stood has been transformed into a natu- ralized urban oasis where visitors can enjoy native trees, plants and animals. With a focus on educational programming and urban wildlife conservation, the Nature Boardwalk has something to offer visitors of all ages. An evolving urban ecosystem This 12 million dollar project was born out of a desire to make the South Pond a natural haven for people and animals alike. Jaclyn Peterson, 18 JUNE 2010 Manager of Public Programs at the Lincoln Park Zoo says, “The South Pond really needed a makeover. It was run down and no longer serving its purpose. Now, this area is really an extension of the zoo—a sort of living exhibit. Visitors can stroll along the boardwalk and re- ally see wildlife in its natural setting.” The Nature Boardwalk is just the most recent example of the zoo’s long-standing commitment to conservation. “The zoo is working hard to conserve wildlife popula- tions all over the world and right here in Il- linois, says Peterson. This work closely ties into the intent behind the Nature Board- walk. “We are trying to explore the ways that we can co-exist with wildlife,” she adds. The Lincoln Park Zoo believes that the Nature Boardwalk will be a model urban ecosystem. The nearly half-mile Nature Boardwalk is free and open to the public 24-hours a day, every day of the year. The boardwalk itself was constructed of earth- friendly, recycled materials. Native plants, trees and animals abound. More than 100 newly planted hawthorns, birch and oaks join dozens of existing ma- ture trees already on site. These trees will provide ideal nesting areas for native and migratory birds including owls and water- fowl. In addition, landscape structures un- derneath the Lester E. Fisher Bridge were specifically designed to provide a prime habitat for birds to nest. The pond itself is surrounded by native prairie and wetland grasses including switch grass, milkweed, sunflowers, water willow, purple corn flower, and golden rod. These indigenous plants will provide habitats for

A Walk On The Wildside

Caitlin Murray Giles

The Lincoln Park Zoo debuts its eco—and visitor-friendly Nature Boardwalk<br /> <br /> The Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to announce it’s newest arrival—but it isn’t what you might think. After over a year-and-a-half of demolition and construction, the Lincoln Park Zoo plans to unveil the new interactive, multi-sensory Nature Boardwalk to the public on June 24. This 14-acre space where the dilapidated South Pond once stood has been transformed into a naturalized urban oasis where visitors can enjoy native trees, plants and animals. With a focus on educational programming and urban wildlife conservation, the Nature Boardwalk has something to offer visitors of all ages.<br /> <br /> An evolving urban ecosystem<br /> This 12 million dollar project was born out of a desire to make the South Pond a natural haven for people and animals alike. Jaclyn Peterson, Manager of Public Programs at the Lincoln Park Zoo says, “The South Pond really needed a makeover. It was run down and no longer serving its purpose. Now, this area is really an extension of the zoo—a sort of living exhibit. Visitors can stroll along the boardwalk and really see wildlife in its natural setting.”<br /> <br /> The Nature Boardwalk is just the most recent example of the zoo’s long-standing commitment to conservation. “The zoo is working hard to conserve wildlife populations all over the world and right here in Illinois, says Peterson. This work closely ties into the intent behind the Nature Boardwalk. “We are trying to explore the ways that we can co-exist with wildlife,” she adds.<br /> <br /> The Lincoln Park Zoo believes that the Nature Boardwalk will be a model urban ecosystem. The nearly half-mile Nature Boardwalk is free and open to the public 24-hours a day, every day of the year. The boardwalk itself was constructed of earth-friendly, recycled materials. Native plants, trees and animals abound. <br /> <br /> More than 100 newly planted hawthorns, birch and oaks join dozens of existing mature trees already on site. These trees will provide ideal nesting areas for native and migratory birds including owls and waterfowl. In addition, landscape structures underneath the Lester E. Fisher Bridge were specifically designed to provide a prime habitat for birds to nest.<br /> <br /> The pond itself is surrounded by native prairie and wetland grasses including switch grass, milkweed, sunflowers, water willow, purple corn flower, and golden rod. These indigenous plants will provide habitats for animals and also play a crucial role as the natural filtration system that maintains the pond’s healthy water quality.<br /> <br /> The zoo plans to carefully introduce animals into the pond in the coming months, including painted turtles, bluegills, fathead minnows, pumpkinseeds, and largemouth bass. However, Sharon Dewar, the Director of Public Relations at the Lincoln Park Zoo, notes that the Nature Boardwalk was designed to naturally attract wildlife. “We suspect that many wild species will find their own way to the ecosystem, rather than being introduced. In fact, the endangered black-crowned night heron has already taken up residence in the trees on the island in the southeast part of the pond,” says Dewar. <br /> <br /> While visitors are enjoying the Nature Boardwalk, wildlife biologists also plan to use this space for conservation science work. Zoo staff will be on site conducting fish and avian surveys, wildlife surveillance, and water quality monitoring. <br /> <br /> Learning opportunities for visitors of all ages<br /> Visitors to the Nature Boardwalk are invited to stroll along the water’s edge and explore on their own or take advantage of the new adult and family-oriented programming designed to encourage guests to interact with this new ecosystem. Many of the new educational opportunities at the Nature Boardwalk will take place at the People’s Gas Education Pavilion, which was designed to resemble a turtle shell and provide a functional outdoor classroom space. <br /> Families with young children can participate in free, daily programs such as Feathered Friends and Fishy Fun. These sessions provide kids with hands-on opportunities to learn more about the animals making their home in and around the pond. <br /> <br /> Those visitors looking for more information on the history of the 140 year-old South Pond and it’s renovation can take advantage of Before and After: A History of the Nature Boardwalk and Exploring the Ecosystem. <br /> <br /> One particularly unique program offering is Sleep under the Skyscrapers. Families with children over age 5 can come out to the Nature Boardwalk for dinner, a night hike, and other outdoor activities. Participants can then pitch a tent (included in the cost of the event) and spend the night on the South Lawn. “There is no other opportunity like this in the city,” notes Peterson. This program is being offered on July 16-17 and August 6-7. Space is limited and advance registration is required. <br /> <br /> The zoo is also offering additional fee-based programs such as adult and parent/baby pond-side yoga classes. “Everybody connects to nature in different ways—maybe through science or physical activity. We really want our programming to facilitate that experience for all guests,” says Peterson.<br /> <br /> As this space evolves, so will the programming options. Fall offerings include both adult and children’s animal photography workshops and a hands-on seminar that teaches kids in grades 3 through 5 what it is like to be an urban wildlife biologist. Although the once-popular paddle boats that formerly graced the South Pond will not be available this season, Dewar notes that, “The zoo is planning to return paddleboats or some other kind of recreational boat experience in the years ahead.”<br /> <br /> Jennifer Mullman is amongst the many Chicagoans who are eager to explore this new urban ecosystem. As the parent of a 2 year-old and someone who works in the field of conservation, Mullman’s interest in the Nature Boardwalk is two-fold. “As a mother, I am excited to explore this area with my son and take advantage of the educational opportunities as he gets older. As a conservationist, I appreciate the zoo’s focus on how humans relate to nature,” says Mullman. <br /> <br /> Perhaps the very best way for zoo-goers to take advantage of the Nature Boardwalk is to come back to explore the space every few months. “We are developing this area from the ground up. For example, the grass is being grown from seed so it won’t be immediately lush. But visitors will be able to observe the fascinating changes that take place as the seasons change and the whole ecosystem evolves, “ says Peterson. <br /> <br /> Whether you consider yourself a committed naturalist or just a nature newbie, all Chicagoans can agree with Mullman’s enthusiastic take on the Nature Boardwalk: “It is going to be so cool to see this habitat evolve against the backdrop of our city.”<br /> <br /> For a full listing of programming offered at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk, visit lpzoo.org. <br /> <br /> Caitlin Murray Giles is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Read more about her work at caitlingiles.com.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
 

Loading