Currently, our experimental plots are located at two places, but they are expanding in the future!
6743 S. Kedzie Ave.
Chicago, IL 60629
Park District Website
Located in Niswi-mishkodewinan (Potawatomi, Odawa, Ojibwe) treaty land, there is some irony that this park is named for the first prominent European to arrive in the area, Catholic missionary Pere Jacques Marquette (1637-1675). Marquette Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers in 1903 as a part of fourteen new Chicago parks meant to bring beautiful and useful outdoor spaces to working class Chicagoans. Following the family line of naturalistic parks (you might know Central Park and Jackson Park, here in town!), Marquette has a lagoon for fishing and wildlife, trees, playgrounds, golfing, community gardening, and more. As a community site, Marquette has been a central space for the fight for racial justice, housing rights, and resisting white supremacy. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. led a march for housing justice through Marquette when the park was unofficially whites-only in 1966, sparking a half-century of protests and white supremacist counter-protests.
Now Marquette is a community space, including a community garden, rose garden, prairie, and 500 newly planted trees. Outside, the park offers four multi-purpose fields, an artificial turf field, 9 hole golf course, lagoon, driving range, basketball and tennis courts, two playgrounds, baseball fields, and spray pool.
Our test plots are located next to the Ashburn Prairie, a remnant prairie rescued from destruction from nearby Ashburn. In 1993, community members and Chicago Park Service worked together to save the two-acre prairie, digging up giant chunks of earth in the dead of winter and transplanting them to Marquette Park’s island. Our plots will be joined by shortgrass prairie restoration, working together to help make sure Ashburn Prairie thrives for future generations to meet our native landscape.
Marian R. Byrnes Park
2200 E. 103rd St.
Chicago, IL 60617
Park District Website
Located in Potawatomi treaty lands, Marian R. Byrnes Park is part of the wider Calumet natural area. Originally a mosaic of river, lake, wetland, and prairie, “calumet” is believed to have come from a Potawatomi word for “low body of deep, still water.” Starting in the 1860s, the still water was seen as a perfect setting for steel production: water for cooling metal and shipping product. The area became the national center for steel production, shipping product all over the world through the Illinois and Michigan Canal that connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. The Calumet region we know now is the product of a century of steelworking: vacant lots, slag heaps, industrial runoff, and, surprisingly, forty percent of Illinois’s endangered plants. What should be just a wasteland turns out to have held great diversity of nature.
Between undisturbed fragments and the hard work of conservation and ecological restoration folks like Marian R. Byrnes herself, places like Byrnes park are bursting with nature on top of slag and broken bricks. Our plots join the prairie at Byrnes Park in an undeveloped grass lot, providing life and homes to our native species