In 2017-2018, ICA USA and the Uptown Coastal Initiative are coordinating the Out & About Uptown’s Coast series which aims to raise awareness of Uptown’s lakefront and parks through nine experiential education sessions that offer attendees rich opportunity for meaningful engagement with the ecology and culture of this Great Lakes coastal community. The project hopes to connect residents, workers, and visitors, and strengthen links between the well-being of the coastal ecosystem and the health and well-being of those who live, work, and visit Uptown’s coast.
ICA launched the series on Sunday, May 21st, 2017, focusing on Urban Ecology. Local partners Susan Ask of animalia project, Melanie Eckner of the Uptown Coastal Initiative, and Ted Jindrich of the Chicago Park District Natural Areas stewards shared their collective expertise covering Uptown’s past, present, and future.
Following the presentations, the group walked to the Montrose Beach Dunes and Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary to take a tour and learn about ongoing opportunities to help preserve and provide stewardship for the natural marvels along Uptown’s coast.
One highlight from the presentations was a look at Uptown’s unique urban fauna, the family of geese that annually resides at Weiss Memorial Urban Rooftop Farm. For three years, the geese have nested until the goslings are big enough to walk to Montrose Harbor, an event endearingly named the Weiss Waddle. During the guided tour of the Montrose Beach Dunes, participants found themselves walking in a similar single-file fashion to maintain the trails!
ICA hosted Cycling Uptown on Wednesday, July 19th, 2017, focusing on biking assets in Uptown. Local partners Melanie Eckner of the Uptown Coastal Initiative, Kyle Whitehead of Active Transportation Alliance, and Dan Black of Divvy and Slow Roll Chicago shared their collective expertise about historical and current bike infrastructure; opportunities to provide feedback into future bike infrastructure; and bike safety.
Following the presentations, the group walked along US Bike Route 37, Lawrence Avenue, to the site of the proposed Lakeshore Trail separation, and finished the walk at the Margate Park Divvy Station for test rides. Most participants had not previously ridden a Divvy bike, so the rides were a fun way to end the night.
Remaining sessions will focus on underutilized community space, urban agriculture, transit, mental health, historic preservation, eco-justice, and green infrastructure. At the close of Out & About Uptown’s Coast, a toolkit highlighting the different approaches taken and lessons learned will be created to help inform future programming as well as participant stewardship and engagement around sustainability in the coast.
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, August 2017.