Douglass 18: Teaming up to Build a Conservation-Themed Miniature Golf Course

March 31, 2021

Lincoln Park Zoo has some ‘tee-rific’ news to share! Douglass 18, a community-led, youth-designed, conservation-themed miniature golf course, broke ground this week in North Lawndale. Obstacles for the 18 hole miniature golf course have landed on the West Side, which are all inspired by the migratry birds that pass through the park each year.

“I had little-to-no knowledge of different species of birds other than house sparrows and pigeons around my neighborhood prior to the Douglass 18 project,” said Tiffany Tam a Douglass 18 youth participant and artist. “The more I learned, the more I realized how many birds cross Douglass Park during migration.”

Photo courtesy of Aaron Magaña.

This project began in 2018 when Lincoln Park Zoo and community partners came together to co-create an opportunity for North Lawndale residents to connect with nature, the heart of the zoo’s mission. With the support of the Chicago Park District, the underutilized golf course quickly rose to the top of ideas that would provide a fun, active, nature-inspired community space.

“The Douglass 18 miniature golf course will be a warm and friendly place for families to come together for wholesome, healthy entertainment in the North Lawndale community,” said Sheila McNary, executive member of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council. “The unique design of the golf course, using birds as its theme, will also raise awareness of conservation and the 200 bird species that make their home in Douglass Park.”

Once the project was decided, 40 teens over the course of 2 years worked alongside lead teaching artists Eric Hotchkiss of the School of the Art Institute and Haman Cross III of Firehouse Community Arts Center to brainstorm obstacles. The designs were then modeled, tested, prototyped, and brought to life in the fabrication process. The artistic obstacles are inspired by the migratory birds found in the park and are designed to highlight different species’ history, diet, threats, coloration, and other distinguishing features. The obstacle designs were displayed at community events (pre-pandemic), reaching more than 400 neighborhood residents to garner community feedback!

Photo Courtesy Douglass 18 Partners

Douglass 18 was made possible by a Lincoln Park Zoo supporter who provided a $800,000 gift for the co-created project.

“Ensuring Chicagoans have access to green space and a chance to connect with nature, both in their neighborhoods and at the zoo itself, is the lifeblood of the zoo’s mission and vision,” said Lisa Hyatt, director of community engagement at Lincoln Park Zoo. “I am constantly in awe of the dedication of the young artists and environmentalists bringing Douglass 18 to life.”

When will the Douglass 18 course open? With an ever-changing landscape due to the pandemic, the course opening is tentatively planned for Summer 2021. In the meantime, a group of young marketers, mentored by CEO of Urban Fetes and The Silent Party Shannon Waldron, have been working diligently to drum up excitement for the course across social media.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Magaña.

The Douglass 18 project would not have been possible without the support of the many dedicated partners including Chicago Park District, Haman Cross III, Eric Hotchkiss, Sheila McNary, Open Architecture Chicago, David Brown of the UIC School of Architecture, Firehouse Community Arts Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square, The Trust for Public Land, site design group, ltd. (site), and Lincoln Park Zoo.

Learn more about Douglas 18 and follow along with its progress on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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