Introducing Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo

The zoo unveiled its new urban ecosystem today, welcoming visitors to the transformed landscape of Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Even as Lincoln Park Zoo President and CEO Kevin J. Bell introduced the green oasis to gathered guests, wildlife was already exploring this new refuge. Dragonflies dashed over the water, swallows swooped overhead and Canada geese paddled through the pond near the Patio at Café Brauer.

“This has been in the works for quite a number of years,” says Bell. “Seven years ago, we started thinking of new ways to talk about the environment and ecology. We realized that we have this pond on the south side of the zoo, and we decided to turn it into something meaningful and different. A place not just for the people in the park but also for exotic wildlife as well.”

Nature Boardwalk will provide a haven for native birds, frogs, fish, insects and more. Designed to offer a pond ecosystem in the heart of the city, this green space will shelter wildlife with 14 acres of natural shorelines, deepened waters and native plants.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and State Representative Sara Feigenholtz were among those welcoming the new ecosystem. Mayor Daley heralded Nature Boardwalk in an address to the crowd, saying, “This changes the lives of many children. It’s an opportunity to be educated on how important wildlife, animals and fish are to our city.”

The emphasis on education was underscored by the presence of second- and third-graders who had come from Sieden Prairie Elementary School in Matteson, Illinois. The students sang a song they’d composed about Nature Boardwalk, welcoming the animals that will float and fly through the ecosystem. The students later joined Bell, the Mayor and Rep. Feigenholtz in introducing the first fish to the pond’s waters.

These fish were just the beginning for an urban ecosystem that will continue to grow and change. As they swam beneath the smiling crowd, they reflected the zoo’s vision of Nature Boardwalk as a place where people and nature can coexist.

“We hope this will be a model for other cities around the country,” says Bell. “We hope they’ll look at creating places equally good for animals as well as people.”