Natural areas are open from dawn to dusk daily.
The Kathy Osterman Beach Dunes natural area, located in the Edgewater community, contains native dune habitat along Lake Michigan. Here, visitors can observe the beauty of dune grasses and other flowering plants as part of their beach experience.
For many years, sections of Kathy Osterman Beach were overgrown with weeds and eroding due to the non-native, short-rooted turf grasses that had been planted in the area. In 2003, in response to community requests, Chicago Park District partnered with the 48th Ward Alderman’s Office and local volunteers to plant a native dune habitat-appropriate garden at the beach, which was the first of its kind on the lakefront. After the removal of some heavy debris followed by sand grading, plant species adapted to the harsh, dry, sunny conditions of a beach environment, including native marram grass. Additional marram grass was then planted along the eastern and northern sides of the “garden” to help keep sand in place. Marram grass is well adapted to growing in the shifting sands of dune and beach environments and its fibrous deep root system traps sand and thus plays a critical role in dune formation and erosion prevention. The native species planted at the natural area provide year round aesthetic interest, sand stabilization, and beneficial habitat for migrating and resident birds.
This natural area provides food and habitat for a variety of shorebirds, and is consistent with the Chicago Park District Lakefront Bird Habitat Guidelines. Developed by several birding organizations, members of the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, Friends of the Parks, the City of Chicago, and others, those Guidelines were adopted by the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners in 2001.
Community volunteers were integral in the installation of the original native planting at Kathy Osterman Beach and continue to assist the Park District in maintaining the natural area. Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting our Community Stewardship Program page.