Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk

March 16th, 2011 | Everyday Green

While city living definitely has its perks, which is why we happily call Chicago home, proximity to nature isn’t the first thing we immediately detail when someone asks us about our love of the Windy City. Sure, there’s an exciting new restaurant opening every day of the week, and cupcakeries along with Starbucks popping up on practically every street corner, but it can be a little more difficult to find a natural oasis in the midst of all this urban development.

That’s the beauty of the Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk, which opened last summer to great fanfare. At the official ribbon cutting ceremony, Mayor Richard M. Daley lauded the structure, saying it teaches visitors how the environment and nature can coexist with an urban society.

While the zoo’s south pond is 140 years old, this newly completed $12 million makeover helped revitalize the pond’s ecosystem with a location that’s still right in the heart of the city. The nearly half-mile Boardwalk that surrounds the pond was constructed out of earth-friendly, recycled materials and is free and open to the public 24/7. One hundred newly planted hawthorns, birch and oak trees joined dozens of existing trees to provide an ideal nesting area for native and migratory birds, including owls and waterfowl. The pond has native prairie and wetland grasses, and while the zoo has introduced painted turtles, river birch and several other birds, fathead minnows and largemouth bass into the water, among other species, the pond was designed to naturally attract wildlife.

Education-and fun-are hallmarks of the newly constructed habitat. The People’s Gas Education Pavilion resembles a turtle shell and provides a functional outdoor classroom space. Free daily programs are offered to bring you closer to nature, including Feathered Friends and Fishy Fun for little children, adult and parent/baby yoga by the pond (weather permitting of course!) and an event entitled Sleep under the Skyscrapers. Families with children over the age of five can have dinner, take a night hike, pitch a tent and spend the night on the south lawn of the Lincoln Park Zoo.

So as you’re planning must-sees for your family this spring and summer, definitely plan a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk. Take advantage of the fact that now you can have it all: The city lifestyle you clearly love and an up close and personal look at a natural oasis.