Designed by Swain Nelson and Olaf Benson in the late 1800’s, North Pond has been a unique and popular feature of Lincoln Park for 130 years. Sadly, its future in the Park is uncertain – without immediate intervention, North Pond as we know it will disappear.
As one of the Park’s only designated natural areas, North Pond holds an important place in the hearts of Chicagoans and is beloved by birders, runners, anglers, families, tourists, and locals alike. Designed as an aesthetic and recreational pond for us humans, the Pond also serves as essential habitat for over 200 migratory and resident bird species. North Pond is home to over a dozen endangered or threatened Illinois birds, amphibians, reptiles, and plants.
Because North Pond is so beautiful, few people realize it is a dying ecosystem and is slowly converting to a wetland. The Lincoln Park Conservancy is committed to saving North Pond. We need you to help us ensure this natural treasure for this generation and generations to come!
Without timely intervention, these factors will eventually kill the Pond as we know it, taking away a beloved human greenspace and destroying valuable urban habitat for many native animal species. But there’s still time! If we work together to #DigDeepForNorthPond, we can save this treasured urban oasis and preserve North Pond not just as part of Lincoln Park’s past, but also its future.
The restoration and long-term stewardship encompasses five key phases:
Complete three remaining studies necessary to develop the final restoration master plan: topographic and boundary study, tree inventory, and detailed pond bottom and sediment analysis. These studies will add important data to recently completed studies, including soil analysis, water quality testing, water balance/pond hydrology analysis, and initial depth and sediment studies. We will host several public meetings to collect and build on community input provided during earlier meetings, which will be integrated into the final restoration master plan expected to be completed in Fall 2020. Come back to this page often to see results of this first, exciting phase.
Deepen the pond to at least 8’ to increase water circulation and oxygen turnover, decrease water temperature, improve aquatic habitat, and reduce algae growth. Special care will be taken during the dredge to ensure the minimal amount of disruption to resident animal and plant species and the general public. Due to concentration of heavy metals found in recent testing, sediment may potentially be relocated to a sanitation facility, if not reusable onsite. The extensive design work, equipment mobilization, and sediment hauling and disposal costs all contribute to making the dredge the most significant project cost. All subsequent steps are dependent on dredge completion.
Grade and stabilize the pond edge to decrease erosion and pollution run-off into the pond while providing additional public gathering and engagement opportunities around the shoreline. Areas of gradual slope will be planted with a variety of submergent and emergent native vegetation to stabilize the pond bank, whereas areas of steeper slope will be stabilized with natural limestone outcroppings interspersed with native plantings and public gathering areas.
Increase the amount and quality of natural areas surrounding the pond to foster greater habitat and species diversity, model natural infrastructure techniques, and provide public engagement/education opportunities with urban nature. Plans include doubling the size of the West Prairie (completed 2019), planting hundreds of native trees (plantings ongoing, with phase one completed Fall 2019 and Spring 2020), and installing a sedge meadow on the Pond’s north end to capture and filter stormwater from adjacent parkland. This last component provides an additional water source to the Pond to reduce or eliminate its reliance on municipal water.
North Pond’s restoration is directly dependent on community support and involvement, with 100% of project funding coming from private donors and foundations. Without support from the community, North Pond’s restoration will not be possible. Community investment will also be vital to the Pond’s long-term stewardship and care. Our restoration efforts are focused on developing consistent, long-term community commitments to North Pond through volunteer stewardship, public awareness, and educational programs. Learn more about how you can get involved below or donate/start your own crowdfunding page for the project here.
2021 – Begin and complete dredge; begin edge stabilization and plantings; begin study and initial sedge meadow site work; continue engagement/fundraising campaign; continue family/community engagement programs.
2022 – Continue and complete edge work and plantings; sedge meadow installation and planting; construction of public engagement spaces; continue engagement/fundraising campaign; continue family/community engagement programs focusing on pond’s long-term stewardship and care.
2023 – Complete sedge meadow and other plantings; celebrate project completion!
PHASE 1 – Pond and Edge
Demolition and Site Prep/Restoration – $950,000
Infrastructure/Utilities – $300,000
Dredge – $3,300,000
Native Plants/Trees – $551,438
Surveys and Studies – $224,000 (2020 Minimum Goal)
Design and Development – 393,382
Permitting and Construction Administration – $377,955
Mobilization – $510,143
Contingency – $510,143
Phase 1 Total $7,117,061
Surrounding Trails and Features TBD
Long-term Stewardship/Management TBD
A variety of files on the Campaign for North Pond are available for download and printing for personal use or to help spread the word about the Campaign!
The North Pond restoration is currently in the Knowledge Phase. The Conservancy and its consultants are finishing final studies this spring. Once completed, our consulting team (in conjunction with the Conservancy and Chicago Park District) will compile a report on opportunities and constraints for the dredge based on the studies and site conditions.
From here a concept plan for the dredge will be compiled for input and approval by the Conservancy and Park District. This plan will also be shared with the public later this summer. Once approved a 30% construction drawing set will be developed.
The final Master Plan draft will be based on these plans and provided for public comment during the Fall 2020.
Based on public input and feedback from the Conservancy and Park District, 100% construction drawings, permit applications, and project budgets will be finalized for submission and approval.
The Knowledge phase will be completed once all designs and permits are approved and ready for construction, anticipated by mid-2021.
This will kickoff the Dredge component which will begin with contractor bidding and selection during late Summer 2021 and dredging beginning Fall 2021.
Check back later this summer to see prospective plans for the dredge and related restoration and offer your feedback.
We want your feedback on North Pond’s restoration! We will be sharing project updates and eventually a draft Master Plan with the public. Whether offering ideas of what trees you’d like to see around the Sanctuary, which native fish you would love to have in the Pond, or a concern about the project plan, we would love to hear from you! Fill out the form below and a Conservancy staff member will respond to your communication.
Explore and learn more about North Pond through project data, videos, concept plans, and activities that connect learners of all ages to the this urban nature sanctuary.
Soil Sampling – Looking more closely at what’s beneath our feet: Open/Download PDF
Cupcake Geology – Seeing through the Earth’s surface with some delectable treats: Open/Download PDF
Meet the Project Team video
North Pond is a sanctuary, a preserve for small wildlife, migrating birds, and many creatures we don't see unless we stop and listen, sit and watch. Occasionally you find baby turtles scrambling into the pond, or multitudes of preying mantis cocoons. There’s usually a treasure to be found in that moment to connect with nature. With the tall prairie plants brushing your shoulders, it's possible to imagine a more timeless wilderness. As a North Pond Gardener, it’s getting harder to balance on the sometimes muddy and eroded edges of the pond. But we show up in heat and humidity, choose to keep working as thunderstorms threaten because it's worth it; we steward North Pond because we love it.
North Pond offers a beautiful glimpse of how Illinois used to look. Today, most of Illinois is agriculture, but our region's rich natural history is preserved at North Pond as a refuge from city life. I'm excited for the new prairie addition to the park which will display wildflowers and grasses that formerly covered most of Illinois in a thick flowery turf, now more endangered than the tropical rainforests so often associated with habitat conservation. The prairie and North Pond are ambassadors for wildlife in Illinois and that is what I like most about them.
About 13 years ago I got off my bus early and walked by North Pond and saw all the beautiful wild flowers growing there. It reminded me of when my family lived near some vacant land that was something like a prairie. I spent many happy hours there. I was happy to find out I could help maintain the landscape around the Pond. Gardening gives me immediate gratification when I see a huge stack of goldenrod plants that I helped take out and long term gratification to see how North Pond Gardeners help maintain such a beautiful site. It also brings back memories of my childhood wanderings - though I never had to pull goldenrod there.
North Pond is a city treasure I’m privileged to look at from my windows every day. Each season provides an adventure, whether watching a coyote running across the pond ice in the winter, seeing the blue heron and friends return to the pond in the spring, walking around it with friends in the summer discovering turtles, monarch butterflies and the occasional beaver, or enjoying the beauty of the changing colors in the fall. North Pond is a vital connection for people to nature in the city and thousands enjoy its soothing powers each year.
North Pond not only captures the urban aesthetic but allows me to take a quick meditation break every time I bike through. It provides a bridge between nature and the concrete jungle, hosting critters such as turtles, frogs, migratory birds, and more. I grew up seeing these creatures in the suburban forest preserves and it's marvelous seeing them in a pond in the heart of the city. I enjoy cleaning up the park, spreading mulch around its trees, and planting natives. These tasks may seem mundane and ordinary but spending time at the park providing this foundational work lets me directly see the fruits of my labor and will hopefully make someone else smile.
I like the nature/habitat that can be found in our city, especially at North Pond. I enjoy helping to preserve and enhance it and to educate/lead others to do the same. The better we understand these resources the more inspired we are in protecting them.
It was just 2019 when my husband and I had to forego setting off for the wilds we love. No more deserts, no more mountains. Age and mobility had grounded us in Chicago. So we were especially grateful to have an oasis of nature as our front yard. North Pond is indeed a primordial landscape, a wetland lying between ancient Lake Michigan dunes, a flyway for migratory birds, a haven for wild creatures, and a small mirror of the beauty of the vanishing Illinois prairie. - Veronica C.
My wife and I will always have a special connection to North Pond - it’s where we got engaged! We'd been living down the street for two years and taken many walks around the pond. When it came time to pop the question, I set up stations on the north side of the pond, each representing a milestone of our relationship. The final station had me with the water and skyline spread out behind us. We don’t live down the street anymore but whenever I come to garden I always give that area a long look and remember one of the best days of my life.