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Added land will make a greater impact on habitat; increases City’s natural area acreage count

The Chicago Park District is excited to announce the expansion of the Montrose Dune Natural Area. The current 12.8 acre habitat, located on the eastern end of Montrose Beach in Lincoln Park will gain an additional 3.1 acres due to the expansion. The added footprint will support valued wildlife, plants and the interests of nature enthusiasts who visit the area daily. 

“We are thrilled to announce the expansion of the Montrose Natural Area,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent & CEO Michael Kelly. “This treasured space, which attracts native and migratory birds, including the endangered Piping Plover and various plants, brings nature and people together in a unique way.”

Montrose Beach Dunes is an important area for foraging, migrating, and resident shore birds, including the federally endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover, which first nested at the site in 2019 and made an encore arrival in 2020. The new 3.1 acres of dune adds to a rare ecosystem in Illinois. These dunes provide habitat for unique and protected plant and animal species. The dune, panne and “floodel” clean water, hold carbon in the fight against global warming and  also provide protection of other infrastructure and preventing the loss of sand on the beach by holding water during storm events and high wave action. The additional acreage also includes some open sand area that shore birds, including the piping plovers Monty & Rose, use to forage during their time in Chicago.

“The Chicago Park District has shown a wonderful commitment to connecting Chicagoans with nature city-wide through its natural areas program.  We applaud this lakefront expansion which will benefit critically important wildlife that rely on the regionally unique dunes habitat for survival,” said Michelle Carr, Illinois State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “We are also pleased to see that other park user groups have been considered and will retain access to space that allows for different types of recreation.”

Montrose Beach Dunes was originally formed by landfill and has since been shaped by natural processes. In 2001, the Chicago Park District stopped grooming the area to encourage dune formation. As a result, the site now contains beach, foredune, and globally rare panne habitat, which support numerous state threatened or endangered plant species. In 2005, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources added Montrose Beach Dunes to the statewide list of high-quality natural areas known as the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI). 

This addition brings the Chicago Park District’s total natural area acreage to 1,919.9 acres, scattered in neighborhoods across the city. The Chicago Park District has served Chicago residents for more than 85 years.