Building Bird Conservation Connections in Chicago
By Louise Clemency
Chicago Ecological Services Field Office
Connecting people and nature is a high priority for the Service. The Chicago ES field office is contributing to that goal by supporting the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Audubon Chicago Region, and Eden Place. The groups are working to connect Chicago residents to their forest preserves through bird conservation and habitat restoration. The Chicago Field Office is providing support through the Upper Mississippi and Great Lakes Joint Venture and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Great Lakes Coastal Program.
One part of the effort is an outreach component, called Wild Indigo Nature Exploration, which is gearing up to take Chicago’s south side by storm. Audubon and community partner Eden Place have hired three great part-time outreach workers, and outreach to community groups has commenced. The team is gathering ideas from potential neighborhood partners about ways that outdoor programming could fit into their mission.
Some ideas they are currently exploring, along with the usual birding, nature walk, and habitat restoration activities:
- Walks for vets with PTSD
- Fishing and nature exploration for teens and mentors
- An expedition co-sponsored with Outdoor AFRO
A calendar of events that features local African-American program leaders:
- Paul Mwangi Gitau, avid birder and leader of Kenyan safaris
- Anayansi Ricketts, local artist
- Sherry Williams, Bronzeville historical society
- Jon Woods, IDNR community outreach staff
- Michael Howard, Eden Place Nature Center
- John Kidd, Fishin’ Buddies
Indoor and outdoor kickoffs are planned in March. Nature training sessions for local community leaders have been very successful, and partners from four community groups, Faith in Place, Bronzeville Historical Society, Eden Place, and the Illinois DNR, have joined us, along with Audubon outreach workers and local birders and stewards.
Eden Place is an urban oasis and a nature preserve that seeks to introduce the Chicago community to food production and environmental education. Founded in 1997 by Michael Howard, a Fuller Park resident, Eden Place has evolved from an illegal dumpsite to a vibrant environmental learning center offering classes and programs to the surrounding community.