ROGERS PARK — A natural playground is coming to Leone Beach Park, adding to the lakefront park’s budding native offerings.
The Park District and park supporters broke ground Saturday on the nature play space at Leone Beach Park, 1222 W. Touhy Ave. The space will give kids extra room to play and connect with nature, park officials said.
Once completed, the play area will include large logs and boulders to play on, plus native plantings and other natural features, according to the Park District. Plants will go in this year while the bulk of the work on the space will pick up in the spring, said Ann Whelan, president of the local park advisory council.
The play area is one piece of an effort to create a natural area getaway at Leone Beach Park, Whelan said.
The park already has a sand prairie along the beachfront. A prairie area that includes an oak tree grove also exists near the park’s existing playground. The nature play area will occupy a quarter acre next to the playground at the corner of Sheridan Road and Touhy Avenue.
“When we were children, these types of places existed,” Whelan said. “You could go there to play and imagine. Modern-day kids don’t have that.”
The Park District’s nature play spaces provide kids with the chance to experience nature in urban areas. There are at least 10 nature play spaces already, including ones at Indian Boundary Park, West Ridge Natural Area and Welles Park.
Plans for a nature play space at Leone Beach Park have been in the works for about four years. The project was boosted by seed funding from the Park District and a matching $10,000 grant from lawn maintenance company TruGreen, Whelan said.
Leone Beach Park is the running for another project that would further round out its natural offerings. A plan to turn the park’s field house into a nature center is one of three North Side projects vying for $1.5 million in city funding.
The plan would open the field house to the public, providing exhibits about the area’s natural resources and environment, plus meeting and learning space. The field house, opened in 1900 as a pumping station, is the oldest lakefront building.
“We have this wonderful property on the lakefront where the access is easy,” Whelan said. “We want to provide natural opportunities for all ages.”
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