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The year-long nature project restored elements of historic 1930s landscape plan to the lakefront park

The Chicago Park District announces the opening of the new Uptown Coastal Natural Area, located at Lincoln Park, west of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive, between Lawrence Avenue and Wilson Drive., that features a selection of biodiverse native lawn alternatives being tested for use across the Park District. 
“As Chicago’s lead green agency, our parks contribute greatly to our city’s sustainability, health and wellness, and the vibrancy of neighborhoods. This new natural area brings our total to 134 across the city, and adds to the number of native plantings that help reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent & CEO Rosa Escareño. “This new natural habitat is also part of a native lawn study happening at a handful of parks that will help support a climate-resilient city.”

The six-acre restoration project transformed the turf lawn into a thriving space for people and wildlife. The project called for the replanting of Illinois native prairie and savanna wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs. 

The northern section of the park contains a selection of biodiverse native lawn alternatives being tested for use across the Park District. These test plots compare different species of native grass-like plants and methods of installation to analyze how well they establish. Signage in the natural area educates visitors on these options and how they could explore them in their own homes. 

The ecological restoration process creates habitats for pollinators and resting stops for migratory birds, absorbs and filters stormwater, stores carbon in the soil, and establishes a place for nature observation and respite in a section of the Uptown community area that is densely populated and highly urbanized. 

In addition, the project reintroduced elements of the original 1930s design by renowned landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, which called for a “naturalistic effect” that relied on native trees, shrubs, and flowers in a layered and informally arranged manner.  

In 2021, the Chicago Park District received a $116,110 grant federally funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and administered through the Illinois Coastal Management Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The grant was matched by the Park District for a total investment of $232,220 in the development of this public project. 
The restoration project that replaced the existing turf lawn began with the removal of invasive plant species in Fall 2022, and the installation of native shrubs and seed installation, and the development of interpretive signage. 

Patrons are asked to stay within the designated pathways and off the plantings to allow for seedlings to grow. Please obey the interpretative signage on site. It will take a few seasons for native plantings to thrive.