The Magic Returns to Indian Boundary Park
August 8, 2014
The magic has returned to Indian Boundary Park.
After a fire in 2012 that closed the fieldhouse, after Lincoln Park Zoo ceased its support of the zoo in 2013, after a divisive and contentious public debate about the mission of the 92-year-old park, a new era dawned Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.
Declaring that Indian Boundary Park “may be second to none, the nicest park of all 600 in the Chicago Park District,” General Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer Mike Kelly opened a re-imagined, revitalized and re-energized 13.06-acre park.
Where a year ago a decrepit and neglected zoo building and enclosure area were fenced off from park users, on Thursday scores of children swarmed among native grass, plants, bushes and trees. They ran along mulched pathways and concrete walks, they climbed over wood bridges and leaped through openings in fences.
Perhaps best of all, children and curious adults reclaimed the park’s three former swan huts, remnants of the days when swans made their home at the park but which lately were dingy nests for bats and unwelcome critters. The huts have been cleaned and their roofs raised, doors inserted and shutters added, transforming them into Play Cottages where children already were creating their own stories.
Tivoli lights illuminate the former aviary, and adjacent, a sensory garden with benches and a short meandering pathway promise quietude for adults.
Also re-energizing the park’s atmosphere are several spray fountains and three sculptures of playful dancing bears that squirt water. They replaced a low-tech single pipe fountain that spewed water with all the imagination of a garden hose.
The creation of the Nature Play Center and new spray pool cost about $570,000, the Mayor’s Office reported, with a portion of the funds provided from an unused federal grant in 2012 initially provided for the NATO summit meeting in Chicago.
Recalling initial heated disputes last summer among park users and managers, neighborhood activist Beth Martin said, “It wasn't pretty at times, but even those who really wanted the animals to remain have got to look at this today and be happy with the interactive space. I think it became the thing it should be.”
Alderman Debra Silverstein (50th), who was the target of opposition from some park activists, commended “the Indian Boundary Park Advisory Council for your insight and enthusiasm on this project."
Advisory Council President Jane Pranga acknowledged Alderman Silverstein’s support, particularly in securing funds for the new spray pool. “The hard work, commitment and participation of so many people and the cooperation of the Park District, the 50th Ward, and the City of Chicago with the community serve as a proud example of what can be achieved.”
Added Daniel Ebel, among the founders of the influential People United to Improve Indian Boundary Park, “park district officials have told me that were it not for the extensive community involvement in collaboration with park district personnel, this space would not be in as good as shape it is. The space opened with scant few problems. That doesn’t happen as a matter of course. In other words, community involvement not only saves money and effort, it produces better results.”
Mayor Emanuel concluded, “This is a jewel. When they say we're a city in the garden, they're talking about this park right here.”