Uptown Coastal Natural Area: Chicago Park District Begins Work on New Native Plant and Bird Sanctuary
The Chicago Park District has begun work on a new nature sanctuary in Uptown that will turn land on the north side into a port of call for migrating birds.
Construction on the Uptown Coastal Natural Area project began Sept. 9, with Park District crews fencing the perimeter of the six-acre preserve between Lawrence and Wilson avenues.
Over the next year, they will remove invasive species from the area and plant native shrubs and seeds.
When complete, the area will feature a mix of grassland and savannah plants, with grass surrounding the monument and existing trails of Dr. José Rizal.
The aim is for the result to offer a nod to landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, who worked as a landscaper for the park district in the 1930s and believed in layering plants, shrubs and trees in a way that promotes a “natural effect” as they grow, according to the park district.
Judy Pollock, president of the Chicago Audubon Society, which aims to get people involved in bird conservation, said the naturalistic planting will be welcomed by migratory birds who will use its canopy, understory, shrubs and beds. soil for their habitat.
The location of the project will also benefit bird populations, Pollock said. Montrose Point, located across DuSable Lake Shore Drive from the new natural area, is home to another bird sanctuary.
The area is one of the busiest destinations for birds stopping in the city due to its wide coastline jutting out into the lake. It generates “by far the most sightings, the most different types of birds seen” in Illinois, Pollock said.
The more complex the habitat, the more attractive the space is for birds, said Alison Anastasio, researcher and professor of environmental and urban studies at the University of Chicago. The new natural area will promote the growth of fungi, native flowers and insect populations – all typically absent from lawns and grass walks across the city.
“We are always looking to increase biodiversity because we find that it is often correlated with the resilience of ecosystems,” Anastasio said.
The area will also benefit the city as a natural stormwater filtration system, as the soil will be able to absorb a greater volume of water compared to the more compact soil of the lawns.