We wanted to share this great tour of our park. Along a stretch of Western Avenue on the North Side of the city is the newly opened West Ridge Nature Preserve. The 20-acre park includes woods, wetlands, walking paths and a 4.5-acre pond. Jay Shefsky goes for a tour with WTTW, for the transcript of the interview please visit here.
The West Ridge Nature Preserve website is a great resource for all the awesome events that constantly enhance the understanding of this urban oasis of natural beauty.
A Message from Pat
The largest thing that we’ve done in terms of parks is the West Ridge Nature Preserve . It’s a passive park of 20+ acres with a 4.5-acre pond and is the largest addition to park space that the Chicago Park District has made in decades. It contains pathways, educational centers, scenic overviews of the lake, and opportunities for people to go boating and fishing.
This purchase was also a defensive measure: cemeteries historically sell off property that they don’t use. The piece of property that we purchased at one time was going to be sold to Jewel for development of a Home Depot store. The neighborhood won’t have to fight back that kind of development in an area where it’s inappropriate because this park will be preserved forever.
The West Ridge Nature Preserve project began with an earmark by freshman Congressman Rahm Emanuel, his first earmark when he went to Congress. He put money aside in a transportation bill for the purchase and preservation of the nature preserve, and then we headed toward that goal through general obligation bonds through the city and some TIF money to finish it off. So it has been in process for over 10 years, great things come to those who wait.
September 21st 2015 Alderman Pat O’Connor and Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked off the official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the long anticipated West Ridge Nature Preserve. The day’s celebration included activities such as a “Story Walk” for parents and children, an “I Spy” nature walk, discussions on pelts and skulls on loan from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, outdoor yoga and much more, all compliments of the West Ridge Nature Preserve Advisory Council.
In response to inquiries as to why no dogs are allowed in the Nature Preserve, please read:
The reason that no dogs are allowed in any of the city’s nature preserves is because it hinders the amount of birds and other prey animals from coming to make the nature preserve their home. Birds, flying squirrels, raccoons, etc. are prey animals by nature and will go out of their way to avoid areas where there are dogs present. Please remember that this is not a typical Chicago Park District facility, but a nature preserve whose purpose is to become a habitat for wildlife that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Service dogs are an exception to this rule.
Here is a great article about the new park in your neighborhood.
By Linze Rice | September 20, 2015, 3:29pm
WEST RIDGE — After months of anticipation, the West Ridge Nature Preserve on Western Avenue finally opened to the public Sunday, and city officials, neighbors and nature lovers alike gathered to welcome the new park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Dozens of residents from across the city made their way over to see Mayor Rahm Emanuel address the neighborhood and explore the newly unveiled grounds.
Ald. Patrick O’Connor said he was proud to be able to have “one of the most beautiful places in the city … right here in the 40th ward,” adding that the nature preserve’s location is a significant part of Chicago’s history. The preserve is located on a natural area of Rosehill Cemetery that was never used for burials.
“This is a place that has great history for the City of Chicago. I think it’s five mayors that are buried here — and there’s a live one here, too,” O’Connor said jokingly. read more….
September 6, 2015
Join Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Pat O’Connor and the Chicago Park District on Sunday, September 20, at 11:00 a.m. for the official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the long anticipated West Ridge Nature Preserve. The day’s celebration will include activities such as a “Story Walk” for parents and children, an “I Spy” nature walk, discussions on pelts and skulls on loan from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, outdoor yoga and much more, all compliments of the West Ridge Nature Preserve Advisory Council.
The entrance to the Nature Preserve is located at Western and Ardmore. Don’t miss this opportunity to welcome the proud addition of 20 plus acres of park space to the 40th Ward!
Updated September 8, 2015
Well, it looks like we are in the final stretch in awaiting the opening of the West Ridge Nature Preserve! As you can see from the pictures above, all that is needed is some finishing touches. The Chicago Park District has informed us that the Nature Preserve should be open by October 1st. As soon as we receive more information as to when the Grand Opening will take place, we will pass that information along to you.
Updated May 8, 2015
Construction of the Nature Preserve is really moving along and is still projected to be complete by August 1st. Check it out!
- The boardwalks are 80% completed.
- Tree planting started this week. Buckeye, hawthorn, oaks, redbud, and filberts are being planted.
- The foundations for the outdoor classroom and Ardmore entry plaza are completed.
- The paths have been graded and stone in being placed in.
- The new storm sewer leading to Western Avenue was installed. Flooding on Western should now cease.
In 2011, the Chicago Park District bought 20 acres of land from Rosehill Cemetery on the city’s north side for nearly $8 million. It was the district’s biggest land purchase in decades. The plot of land near one of Chicago’s busiest traffic intersections had sat unused and untended for many years. The result was a parcel chock full of invasive tree species, a stagnant pond, and poor drainage that often led to flooding of adjacent Western Avenue. But what some saw as a dead zone that was prime for development, the Park District saw as an opportunity to create a new nature preserve to allow visitors to commune with many plants and animals that call the area home. Nearly four years later, work on the nature preserve is moving quickly with a scheduled unveiling set for this summer. We get a look at what’s become of the 20 acres after the removal of hundreds of dead and invasive trees, and as hundreds more are being planted while nature trails take shape and the pond has been given new life where turtles, ducks, herons, and other wildlife can thrive. read more..
Updated April 3, 2015
Construction of the West Ridge Nature Preserve is well underway. The completion date of August 1st will be here before we know it and will give our community a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Below is a comprehensive list of the progress being made:
- Finished the tree removal and trimming of the trees
- The new sewer that controls the pond has been installed
- The footings for the board walk have been poured
- The outdoor classroom on the hill on the southern portions is being constructed
- The path grading and wetland area are being graded now
- Fencing along Western Avenue will start in later this month
- Plantings will start in May
Some planting will take place in the fall and spring of next year due to the species. We will keep you updated as construction progresses.
It’s been something of a dead zone for decades, but now the City of Chicago has plans to resurrect part of a North Side cemetery. We’ll tell you about the proposed West Ridge Nature Preserve. View a conceptual plan for the West Ridge Nature Preserve in the PDF below.
Looking east from Western Avenue, the view is menacing. Looking west from inside Rosehill Cemetery, it’s no less ominous. This is nature left to its own devices for decades. But the 20 acres of land that border one of the busiest intersections in Chicago is on its way to getting a long overdue makeover.
“What we want to do is just provide a little ‘tlc’ to the land, take out the invasive species and some of the undesired undergrowth,” said Chicago Park District Director of Planning and Construction, Rob Rejman. “We’d like to bring some pathways, access to the pond, fishing areas, and turn it into a real nature preserve for the community.”
The City of Chicago is calling it the West Ridge Nature Preserve and it’s been a long time in the making. Two years ago, the city bought the 20 acre plot from Rosehill cemetery for $7.7 million. It was one of the biggest and most expensive land purchases the city has made in decades with the intent of keeping it a natural setting. But over the years the land came close to becoming commercial property.
“And the actual ownership of the cemetery has gone through several hands over the years. But the current owners are a Texas based corporation that owns cemeteries across the country – in fact throughout the world – and have a history of selling off portions for developments, so it wasn’t a stretch to think that we could end up seeing them try to do that in this cemetery as well,” O’Connor said.
At times, the cemetery used the plot as a landfill for sand and dirt and as a receptacle for water run off. Some nature lovers would also fish in the large pond that takes up a sizeable area of the land. But with virtually no tending for years, the 20 acres have become a twisted jungle of undergrowth, invasive plant and animal species and dead wood. In the city’s hands, the proposal is to turn this wilderness into a cultivated landscape where humans and nature can mingle.
“People have been coming to the area for a while. Just walking and using it as sort of a park like setting. Now we want to turn it into an actual natural area that promotes access and provides a safe environment to come and actually bring kids out, and teach kids about nature, and actually use the area,” Rejman said.
“That pond gets restored; it actually gets dredged and deepened to help promote wildlife and, actually, fish populations in the pond. And then that water continues to be used by the cemetery. They can draw from that pond for irrigation and other purposes.”
Preliminary concepts designed by a Chicago landscape architecture firm Hitchcock Design Group include nature trails, canoeing and kayaking launches, observation points and educational signage. The Chicago Park District – which is overseeing the development – likens it to a mini Morton Arboretum.
But the park district says the West Ridge plans will be similar to the already existing nature sanctuary near 71st Street and the Lakefront where bird watching and footpaths allow nature lovers a quiet escape from the urban noise. The proposed preserve will not, says Alderman O’Connor, be a city park.
Update: West Ridge Nature Preserve Construction“You’re not looking at ball fields and lit up portions, you’re looking at pathways that would meander around a beautiful lake, and lesser pathways that would be through the forest,” O’Connor said.
Residents also expressed concerns about a number of healthy trees that were recently cut down around the proposed nature preserve. But the city says those trees were on cemetery property not on the land now owned by the city. But the rehab will involve some deforestation.
“The trees that do need to come down are mostly invasive trees and under story weed trees. What we want to do is replace them with more desirable trees, like Oaks, or other trees that wed like to promote in this preserve,” Rejman said.
“Well leave what’s good for habit, woodpeckers and other things. In terms of undergrowth, we’ll leave insensitive areas, and in other areas we’re going to clear out for pathways and provide better trees.”
The preserve will be enclosed by a fence that separates the park from the cemetery but that’s also raised concerns about accessibility. Right now, there will only be two entrances and might involve crossing busy Western Avenue.
“We’ll be working with C-DOT to improve the cross walks, and if signalized intersections are needed, we can take a look at that,” Rejman said.
The redevelopment will cost about $3.5 million, the bulk of it coming from federal grant money but $700,000 coming from TIF funds. In the end, the city says it will be worth it, and a much better alternative to a big box store.
September 21, 2014
Alderman O’Connor and area neighbors gathered Saturday, September 6, to welcome Mayor Rahm Emanuel along with Michael Kelly, General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District and Rebekah Scheinfeld, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation to celebrate the much anticipated ground breaking of the West Ridge Nature Preserve. The Nature Preserve is located at the northwest corner of Rosehill Cemetery located at Peterson and Western Avenues and has over 20 acres of wooded land and a spring fed lake. Once complete, nature enthusiasts will be able to fish, walk scenic trails and enjoy the tranquility this park is sure to offer.
With construction underway, the park is tentatively scheduled to open mid 2015.