Eco, Gardens, Green Space

GWCA Garden Walk (established 1982). The Garden Walk is hosted in July or August each year. Historically participation has ranged from 11-102 gardeners. In 2014, Lake View High School joined in with an Architectural Tour as their contribution to the Garden Walk.

Recycling (established 1984). GWCA sponsored a weekly recycling drop off until the City of Chicago adopted the “Blue Bag & Blue Cart” program.

Corner Plantings (established 1980’s). GWCA sponsored an “adopt-a-corner” program in the early 1980’s. Most of these corners in GWCA has a designated owner who ensures the maintenance and upkeep. GWCA has included GWCA news kiosks in a few of these corner plantings.

Graceland West Community Association Park (established late 1980’s). The east 25’ of Warner Park was originally the GWCA, Graceland West Community Association Park. It has a 100+ year old Gingko tree, which neighbor Lois Buenger helped save.  GWCA voted to donate the park to NeighborSpace and combine it with Warner Park in the late 1990’s.

Warner Park and Gardens (established late 1980’s). This tranquil park, is an oasis of perennial plantings and shade. It was established by long term Warner resident Lois Buenger, who was a Chicago Public Schools special education teacher. Lois mortgaged her home in 1987 to acquire the property at 1446 West Warner to be Chicago’s first private park, Warner Park and Gardens. With unwavering determination the teacher turned a once untended lot into a gracious garden. To serve a wider community, the park was designed to meet a variety of needs – educational, social, and aesthetic.  On any given day, one may find students studying, children playing, neighbors strolling, or baby-sitters socializing.  Warner Park and Gardens also played host to Park Art 1995 and Park Art 2000.  This outdoor art event was yet another dimension to its unique and special offerings to Chicago’s urban landscape.

In 2001 with efforts from the City of Chicago, Lois Buenger’s personal interests were bought out by NeighborSpace. The Chicago Park District has a long term lease for the park. In March of 2003, Lois passed away. Her legacy lives on with the park. The Park is maintained by the Warner Park and Gardens Board of Directors, which includes residents of the Graceland West Community and friends to the park.  The Park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Warner Park and Gardens hosts several Graceland West neighborhood activities, including GWCAFest, the annual GWCA Children’s Halloween Party and the Fairy Tea party.  It is also available for rentals. Information is on their Face Book page. Warner Park is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) and survives solely on the solely on the generosity of neighbors, local business and grants.

Neighborhood Stormwater runoff, standing water and flooding addressed with Greenview intersection and street leaf cleanup beginning in 2012.  Expanded to all streets in 2016.  With Climate Change, many leaves fall after city street sweepings end.  GWCA and Lake View High School partner on this effort, and the issue impacts the neighborhood and school.

Lake View High School Campus / Community Park and Children’s Play Lot (opened 1997). Chicago lacks park and green space per capita, and creative ideas for location are necessary with land acquisition financially prohibitive. A pilot project was developed to add community park facilities on the Lake View High School campus with funding and maintenance by the Chicago Park District, City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools. The Project was done by Ted Wolff Landscape Architecture. All parties, including the neighborhood, provided planning and design input. Traffic and neighborhood street crossing safety analysis was conducted, especially as the park incorporates a Children’s Play Lot. Play Lot planning included bottom-up input from neighborhood children and parents. A wide half block long tree lined walkway with mosaic covered benches provides shade and space for reading, Thai chi, yoga, study groups and picnics.  The resulting park is unique in that it’s designed for both the school and the community and takes into account needs of families, young children, students and seniors aging in place.

Extensive landscaping was done for the 2.3 acre Campus Park. A new canopy entrance was constructed, the track resurfaced, playing field irrigated and re-sodded, walkways, plantings, lighting, mosaic benches and a wall mosaic added. The park, with considerable green space, is available to the public when not in use by the school. The neighborhood voted to give up street parking on one side of both Greenview and Belle Plaine weekdays (originally agreed to as from 8 am to 3 pm) for faculty parking in exchange for expanded neighborhood park and green space. GWCA voted in 1995 for curb extensions with rain gardens at the Belle Plaine / Greenview intersection to make the intersection safer for children, families and students to cross, slow Belle Plaine traffic and help manage stormwater, but city funding was not available at that time. In 2013/2014 additional lighting was added, which better illuminates the Campus Park. In 2015, Alderman Pawar and Principal Grens addressed issues with worn out Play Lot equipment and chips, which were replaced. An updated campus and community park plan (2013) hasn’t yet been funded, but includes:

  • Replacing dead and drought and cold stressed trees as needed
  • Repairing mosaic benches
  • Replacing the large mosaic, “One Red Wing”, ORW with an equally inspirational mosaic which has been properly installed for outdoor conditions (ORW can be repurposed indoors)
  • Adding four sets of seating
  • Amending soil for stormwater drainage (engineered soil), adding drought resistant native plants, a rain garden and otherwise addressing
  • Flooding related issues with greenscaping
  • Adding raised gardening beds east of the faculty lot for teaching
  • Adding large sculptures to flank the canopy entrance at the track and at other park locations
  • Adding vertical garden space to help with stormwater flooding and provide habitat for birds and pollinators. A green roof is also desired for stormwater issues and to provide habitat for birds and pollinators

Principal Scott Grens would eventually like LVHS to have a Green Roof for ECO & Educational purposes (native plants for stormwater flooding reduction w bird, bat & pollinator habitat.  A section for food production could be included) (2014).

The Campus and Community Park is popular with neighbors for yoga, Thai Chi, walkers, runners, for sports, picnics and children learning to ride a trike or bike.  The tree-lined center promenade includes benches for seating, covered by mosaics by Lake View High School students.  There is also a play lot designed with input from neighborhood children, who were part of the planning committee.  It is also one of the practice sites for the top ranked LVHS Soccer Team, 2013 City Champs. Needed Campus and Community Park improvements may require raising funds.

Berteau Greenway (2013). National surveys show young professionals with college and advanced degrees prefer to find jobs in cities where they can safely bike, walk and use public transit for work and pleasure.  Families with young or school age children and seniors want the same walk, bike and transit access.  With this in mind, Chicago developed a goal (2012) of being the best big city for biking and walking and planned to add 100 miles of protected bike paths.  Berteau residents had voiced concerns about speeding and cut-through traffic and unsafe pedestrian crossings and the city observed increased bicycle accidents on Montrose and Irving Park.  At this time the city was also looking at the Greenway concept.  Greenways include greenspace, shared or contraflow bike lanes and curb extensions, which discourage cut-through traffic, reduce traffic speed and increase bike and pedestrian safety.  The Berteau Greenway, the first Greenway in the city, was spearheaded by Alderman Pawar and subsequently planned, designed and developed.  Traffic calming curb extensions with rain gardens additionally help reduce potential stormwater flooding on Berteau and curb extensions and a greenscaped pedestrian island on Clark increase pedestrian safety. Berteau is the only neighborhood street between Montrose and Irving Park to pass under the Ravenswood tracks and could also connect three arterial bike routes. The pilot project happened in one Ward, which made planning and community input easier. Additional bike connectivity is planned for the future in other Wards.  Traffic calming curb extensions with rain gardens additionally help reduce some stormwater flooding.  Here’s a link:  http://chicago47.org/projects/neighborhood-greenways/

In 2014 GWCA established an ECO (Ecological / Environmental) Committee, which is a partnering of Graceland West Community Association, Lake View High School and Warner Park and Gardens, with representatives from each.  This effort is to address stormwater runoff, standing water, and related neighborhood flooding and encourage the use of green space in this effort.  Best ECO/Green practices are encouraged with this effort.  GWCA and the ECO Committee would like to see Bee Keeping restored to Lake View High School as part of a future roof garden and the school and neighborhood as part of the National Bee Trail.

In 2015 CNT, Center for Neighborhood Technology developed a “Rain Ready” survey for the Graceland West neighborhood to better identify and troubleshoot neighborhood stormwater run-off and flooding issues including intersection flooding. Greenscaping solutions are among recommendations at a 2015 meeting with GWCA and Lake View High School.  As part of the overall ECO effort, Lake View High School began a School and Community Composting Program in 2015. For 2016 GWCA plans Native Plants and Engineered Soil in 8 or more new Parkway Corners and will encourage residential use of Native Plants and Engineered Soil to reduce stormwater runoff and flooding while providing the beauty of bird and pollinator habitat. Lake View High School has received a grant for a Rain Garden. Warner Park and Gardens plans to add additional Native Plants.  And GWCA has applied for an EPA sub-grant to help with application and education regarding the neighborhood stormwater flooding problem.  The 47th Ward will use menu funds to install traffic calming bump-outs with bioswales at the Greenview / Belle Plaine intersection in 2016 or 2017 to help reduce flooding.

2016.  The GWCA ECO Committee, addressed loss of pollinator habitat and increased stormwater causing flooding and standing water by installing a Native Plant demonstration corner at the SW Corner of Belle Plaine and Greenview.  It is an example of what a home or condo owner can easily do to absorb about 2,000 gallons of annual stormwater.  Native plants selected will provide bird, and butterfly habitat.  Soil was amended 9″ deep (sand, soil, peat moss, clay and compost were incorporated) for maximum permeability.  GWCA is encouraging all neighbors to add another 100 sq. ft. of permeable space (for a typical 25′ x 125′ city lot) to capture stormwater where it falls to help prevent stormwater runoff, standing water (which can attract mosquitos) and vehicle, street and basement flooding.

2017.  The Graceland West Community Association holds a “Pollinator Party” and their 35th Garden Walk.  40 neighborhood gardens and green spaces including the Lake View Campus and Community Park, Warner Park and Gardens, the Berteau Greenway and two Pollinator Pathway Corners are displayed.  Lake View High School shows new Campus Plan to community.

 

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