Mindful Metropolis June 2010 : Page 19

animals and also play a crucial role as the natural filtration system that maintains the pond’s healthy water quality. The zoo plans to carefully introduce ani- mals 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 de- signed to naturally attract wildlife. “We sus- pect 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. 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. Learning opportunities for visitors of all ages 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 func- tional outdoor classroom space. Families with young children can partici- pate in free, daily programs such as Feath- ered 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. Those visitors looking for more informa- tion 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. One particularly unique program offering is Sleep under the Skyscrapers. Families with children over age 5 can come out to the Na- ture 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 of- fered on July 16-17 and August 6-7. Space is limited and advance registration is required. 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—may- be through science or physical activity. We really want our programming to facilitate that experience for all guests,” says Peterson. As this space evolves, so will the program- ming 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 re- turn paddleboats or some other kind of recre- ational boat experience in the years ahead.” 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 op- portunities as he gets older. As a conserva- tionist, I appreciate the zoo’s focus on how humans relate to nature,” says Mullman. 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 be- ing grown from seed so it won’t be immedi- ately 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. Whether you consider yourself a com- mitted 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.” For a full listing of programming offered at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk, visit lpzoo.org. Caitlin Murray Giles is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Read more about her work at caitlingiles.com. Read more about this topic! Visit mindfulmetropolis.com/blog MINDFULMETROPOLIS.COM 19

The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center