North Pond Nature Sanctuary

ANNOUNCING OUR NORTH POND CONCEPT PLAN TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE NATURE SANCTUARY FOR THE NEXT 100 YEARS

We have developed an innovative plan to revitalize the North Pond Nature Sanctuary and re-envision the 36-acres surrounding it. The pond is over 130 years old and time has taken its toll; it needs help to stay healthy and survive for the next 100 years.

Our goal is to ensure this important sanctuary remains a natural, healthy place for both people and wildlife for generations to come.

Our top three objectives are to:

  1. Restore North Pond to a healthy, revitalized pond that establishes a self-sustaining ecosystem with restored shorelines, and natural depths that provide greater aquatic habitat while eliminating algae blooms.
  2. Create a Natural Playscape for children that will replace the existing Sunshine Playlot.
  3. Add two new destination spots to spread out the hundreds of thousands of people who visit North Pond annually.  By creating new nature spots that are as interesting and charming as the pond itself, we permanently reduce stress on the pond’s shoreline, which is being loved to death.
16_0714 Woodland

East Woodland, Creek and Charming Wooden Boardwalk

This beautiful new destination spot, to be located on the east side of North Pond, includes a native woodland with a babbling creek and charming wooden boardwalk.  It will revive a disappearing ecosystem once commonly found in the Chicago Region.  It will also expand the Sanctuary’s habitat for wildlife, attracting owls and amphibians in a setting that includes ferns and spring flowers growing under an open canopy of trees.  A small creek will wind through the woodland with a low boardwalk that allows visitors safe access to rare and delicate plant life.  The creek also serves a functional purpose in funneling stormwater to the pond and assisting with aeration.  Existing shoreline trails will remain.

16_0714 Tiered Sedge & North Lawn

Tiered Sedge Meadow & North Lawn

A new and functional destination spot, to be located on the north side of North Pond, includes a native sedge meadow that will be critical to the ongoing health of the pond.  Native sedge plants will naturally filter both city and stormwater to healthfully replenish North Pond.  Each year millions of gallons of potable city water are added to the pond to maintain its depth and temperature.  As fresh water becomes more valuable on our planet, we must think ahead and find ways to ensure the North Pond Nature Sanctuary is sustainable.  This lovely feature is the first step to making that a reality.  It also has wonderful side benefits such as connecting the northern and southern sections of the park, opening up views across the pond, and improving open space at the park’s north end for all those great activities people love such as picnics, soccer, throwing a Frisbee, sunbathing, and playing with your children and dogs.  Vehicular guardrails and other safety features will be added along the nearby roads to ensure a safe play environment.

Concept Plan of Playscape 11.14.16 (Low-Res)

A New Natural Playscape

This new concept in outdoor play is sure to engage children of all ages and abilities in a safe, fun environment.  To be located on a pretty, tree-lined opening north of Mt. Prospect (aka: the sledding hill), and replacing the existing Sunshine Play lot, the new playscape will blend traditional equipment such as swings and sandboxes with new natural features such as hillside slides and discovery activities.  Certain features, like willow tunnels, will be changed every few years, to provide frequent visitors with the opportunity to make fresh discoveries.  Studies increasingly illustrate the importance of regular exposure to outdoor nature settings, which can benefit children in many ways; it can reduce ADHD symptoms, increase scores on standardized tests, improve critical thinking skills, and reduce stress, anxiety and depression.  It’s not bad for parents and grandparents either!

Algae on pond by restaurant

Deepening the Pond and Shoreline Restoration

Being 130 years old isn’t easy for a pond.  Today, at its deepest, the North Pond is only about four feet, and that is just at a small area in the center.  Most areas are about knee or ankle-high, and it is continuing to fill with sediment and algae.  This is not a hospitable environment for aquatic wildlife (part of an important food chain).  If left unattended, the pond would eventually become a mosquito-infested marsh.  By deepening the pond, coupled with a proposed long-term maintenance plan, we can ensure the health of North Pond and its inhabitants for generations.   The Chicago Park District recognized the importance of North Pond in 1999, attempting to fight the same ecological challenges we are facing today by putting $1.5 million toward improving water health and planting native shoreline plants.  Unfortunately, that did not address the deeper causes to the deterioration of the site, which is why our project is necessary today.  Our Concept Plan is much larger in scale, and includes a dredge of the pond, which is critical to the pond’s survival.

16_0714 Enhancement  Zone

Enhancement Zone and New Visitor Amenities

The park land between Lakeview Avenue and Stockton Drive will also receive enhancements such as sidewalk repairs, lawn refurbishments, and a tree succession plan.  CTA bus stop areas at Wrightwood, Roslyn and Arlington will become more welcoming with small rain gardens to prevent flooding sidewalks during storms and lawn/soil erosion.

Across the street in the Nature Sanctuary, new visitor amenities will help create a cohesive sense of place with benches, drinking fountains, trash cans and bike racks.  Sustainable infrastructure features such as solar power and night-sensitive lighting will be used.  As always, excessive signage and man-made features will be at a minimum to enhance the feeling of your “immersion into nature” experience at the pond.

We look at Nature too much, and live with her too little.

– Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Plan a Visit
Historic North Pond Rustic Pavilion - Lower View Facts Area (CPD Special Collections)

The History

The land area containing North Pond officially became part of Lincoln Park in 1867. Landscape gardeners Swain Nelson and Olaf Benson created the plan to expand the park from North Avenue to Diversey Parkway including the addition of the 10-acre North Pond, which was completed in 1884 and used for leisure activities.

More Details
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