South Shore Cultural Center Nature Area
Chicago Park District
The South Shore Cultural Center is located on Lake Michigan, and is one of the jewels in Chicago’s magnificent system of lakefront parks. At the south end of the site was an unused, overgrown, debris-filled site projecting into the lake. The Chicago Park District (CPD) wanted to add this site to the string of natural areas and migratory bird habitat sites in the lakefront parks.
The site analysis revealed the existence of a small population of sea rocket, a state-threatened herbaceous plant endemic to lakefront beaches, while the balance of the site was overgrown with emergent trees (cottonwood, willow, box elder, ailanthus, mulberry, etc.) and herbaceous weeds. Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. and the Chicago Park District developed a plan to clear most of the trees and develop a variety of migratory bird habitats.
The habitat plan includes dune restoration, including the planting of marram grass and prickly pear; removal of the “weed” trees and planting of native trees on the site perimeter; planting of a butterfly meadow suitable for birds and butterflies; and excavation of a small pond planted with wetland and emergent species around the banks.
The site is accessible from a new walking trail; the surface is gravel screenings through the meadow and trees and is a boardwalk of timber and recycled plastic lumber across the pond, wetlands, and sensitive dune habitat. The loop trail connects two stone council rings near the point.