The Uptown Coastal Natural Area project, beginning in 2022, will transform approximately six acres of lawn into a thriving space for people and wildlife through the planting of Illinois native prairie and savanna wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs. The project is located in Lincoln Park west of DuSable Lake Shore Drive and between Lawrence and Wilson. The ecological restoration process will create a resting stop for migratory birds, absorb and filter stormwater, and establish a place for nature observation and respite in a section of the Uptown community area that is densely populated and highly urbanized.
Initially identified through the Institute of Cultural Affairs "Uptown Coastal Initiative", this effort is made possible through funding from the Illinois Coastal Management Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
1930s: The northern Chicago lakefront undergoes drastic changes through land filling and the creation of Montrose Point and Montrose Harbor. Landscape plans in Lincoln Park, of which only some were realized, call for the installation of thousands of native shrubs and trees.
2016: The Institute of Cultural Affairs Uptown Coastal Initiative engages Uptown community members in a planning process to "enhance awareness and stewardship of Uptown's inner coastal zone and its unique assets." The idea to create a native habitat restoration project west of DuSable Lake Shore Drive is identified as part of this process.
2021: The Chicago Park District applies for and receives a grant from the Illinois Coastal Management Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to replace existing turf lawn with native prairie and savanna plantings.
2022–ongoing: Project begins in late summer/fall 2022, including fencing, treatments to non-native vegetation, native plant and seed installation, and signage development. Management of the new plantings will continue in future years.
According to the National Register of Historic Places entry for this area of Lincoln Park, "[Alfred] Caldwell gave the landscape a 'naturalistic effect' by relying on native trees, shrubs, and flowers in a layered and informally arranged manner. The original design included masses of vegetation that defined meadows and areas such as parking lots. This included a long meandering meadow west of Lake Shore Dr. between Lawrence Dr. and Foster Dr. and a smaller meadow between Wilson Dr. and Lawrence Dr. In the late 1930s this area was much more densely planted than the landscape east of Lake Shore Dr. Although the vegetation is now greatly reduced, particularly along the western edge of the two meadows, the area retains its historic pathway system."
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