December 5, 2020

Winnemac Park in Lincoln Square

I needed a nature visit, but did not have much time to drive someplace. Winnemac Park, which shares a parcel of land with Amundson High School and Chappell Grade School, sprang to mind.

Technically considered part of Lincoln Square, the park’s boundaries are Damen, Foster, Leavitt and Argyle. The Winnemac parking lot entrance is south of Amundsen H. S. on Damen Avenue.

At just over 22 acres, the park has a children’s playground and several open meadow areas for sports activities. There are prairie plantings in the interior of the park which feature footpaths amid the grasses and foliage.

Spring, summer and fall are the better times to visit this urban nature oasis, but there is a stark beauty to the now brown prairie garden areas. Winter snow will offer yet another lovely character to the park.

Look for the giant willow trees in the south side meadow bordered by Argyle.

Adults, children and dogs can be seen throughout Winnemac Park. This is not a dramatic recreational area, but a wonderful addition to the neighborhood for those needing a quick nature fix.

https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/winnemac-park

The North River Trail: Foster Avenue

I discovered one of my new favorite parts of the North Branch of the Chicago River. My photos and directions will help you find your way to this bucolic setting which is not clearly marked.

Herewith a guided tour: North of Pulaski on Foster, park at the Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove lot (4498 N. Foster Avenue). Head for the bike trail towards the large tree pictured in the photo to the left.

Concrete barriers on either side of the bike path will mark your entrance point. Go to the right of the concrete barriers down a dirt path leading to a graffiti-covered bridge overlooking the North Branch of the Chicago River. You have several trails from which to choose.

A rough stone staircase leads to paths at river level, but there are multiple dirt paths leading to the water on both sides of the river.

We opted to bypass the river paths and went down a straight walkway going east. Two deer, a buck and doe to the left of our path, drew us onto a trail through a wooded glen.(Photo of the buck above.)

Even with fewer leaves now, this was a magical area with sunlight streaming through dense trees and foliage. There were a variety of paths we could have taken, and hope to check out more of these nature trails in the future.

You might encounter families with children and many people walking dogs, so mask-wearing is still advised. For about an hour, we forgot we were in Chicago as we communed with water, trees, foliage and wild life.

This area is part of the 20-mile long North River Trail from Foster Avenue in the city to Glencoe.

We hope to explore several entrance points farther north before the snow falls. Then again, we might just get cross-country skis out!

https://fpdcc.com/places/trails/north-branch-trail-system/

Anish Kapoor, Sculptor of Chicago’s “Bean”

In my quest to know more about my city, I have been noting public sculpture and what is more popular in Chicago than “The Bean,” or what is officially called “Cloud Gate,” in Millennium Park.

Anish Kapoor, sculptor, has a multi-cultural background. Born in Mumbai/Bombay, India to a Jewish mother and a Punjabi Hindu father, he spent time in Israel living in a kibbutz and studying electrical engineering. He had an artistic epiphany of sorts and moved to London where he has lived as a sculptor since the 1970s.

His sculptural work can be seen all over the world, most notably “Cast Iron Mountain” in Japan, “Simcoe Place” in Toronto, versions of his “Sky Mirror” in Nottingham, England and Rockefeller Center in NYC, “Earth Cinema” in Pollino National Park in Italy and “Cloud Gate” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Kapoor also collaborates on projects with architects such as Arata Isozaki, Cecil Balmond, Herzog and de Meuron, Phhilip Cumuchdjian and David Connor.

Kapoor was knighted in 2013 and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 2014. Chicago has bragging rights for having Kapoor’s “The Bean” be one of the artistic centerpieces of Millennium Park.

Cloud Gate

5 Major Works from Anish Kapoor’s Groundbreaking Career

North Pond Path

North Pond is an urban nature treasure north of Fullerton and the Lincoln Park Zoo and south of Diversey. Initially a leisure area of Lincoln Park back in 1884, the Chicago Park District started a renovation of the pond and surrounding land in 1999, with the project ongoing.

The .8-mile path loops around the pond and makes for a relaxing stroll through scenes of native plants and trees, ducks and geese on the water and shore, plus dog-walkers and children playing. Chicago’s sky-scraping skyline is off in the distance making for a pleasant dichotomy between bucolic and urban.

North Pond is on a flyway for migratory birds and contains local mammals, amphibians and insects.
I used to live a block away and watched a beaver industriously build a structure along the banks one winter.

Attractions include North Pond Cafe on the north bank and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on the southeast.

Parking can usually be found on Cannon Drive, the street east of the pond. Lake Michigan is within short walking distance. North Pond Restaurant is a gem and bears a revisit when the times allow.

Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

For years, I have made a mental note to check out the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. These past few days of balmy fall weather seemed to be the perfect time to head to Skokie. From Dempster Street on the north to Touhy Avenue on the south, the path, completed in 1988, is east of McCormick Boulevard and runs along the west bank of the Chicago River.

I must admit I was a bit disappointed. The traffic noise coming from the busy street was an intrusion and view of the river is obscured by foliage. There was one riverside view, however, with a small amphitheater north of Touhy. (Please look for my duck photo taken on the banks of the Chicago River.) The Skokie Northshore Channel Park would be so much more inviting if the river were visible all along the two-mile stretch and if more trees could be planted to soften the street noise.

I saw joggers, bicyclists, casual walkers and children, however, so the park is well-used. It just could be even better with a little landscaping attention.

One word about the 60 pieces of sculpture. Amusing would be the predominant adjective. As a big fan of public art, I leave it to the eye of the beholder to assess artistic merit. Ultimately, this is yet another cultural and nature attraction within the Chicago area to put on your list.

Nurture Your Nature in Chicago: Bill Jarvis Bird Sanctuary

This week, I had a yen to walk around the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary just south of the lakeside Waveland Clock Tower and the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course.

Created in the 1920s, the sanctuary escaped demolition in 1968, and was taken under the wing of the Chicago Park District thanks in no small part to Lake View residents, William Beecher of the Chicago Academy of Science and Bill Jarvis, a bird-watcher and plant-lover for whom the preserve is named.

More than 150 bird species have been spotted at this roughly 10-acre nature jewel on the lake front. There is a walking path around the circumference of the fenced area and a raised viewing station on the east side. Alas, tree damage from wind is visible throughout the nature area with a section of the fence having been destroyed, but this is still a lovely place to catch the autumn colors and avian visitors.

Previous visits have allowed me to see raccoons descend from their tree home to be fed by visitors. Another time, I was gifted by seeing Purple Martins swarming to gain admittance to their lovely white homes facing the lake. On my most current visit, a man with a camera quietly pointed out a regal hawk in a tree above our trail. To my chagrin, I unsuccessfully tried to get my zoom lens to capture this hunter of the sky.

If you need a nature fix and live in the city, look no further than the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary near the Lake Michigan shoreline. Bring your camera or your binoculars. As a bonus, the recently refurbished Kwagulth Totem Pole just west of the preserve marks your destination.