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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Neighbors Fundraising To Create Hummingbird Garden Next To Washington Park’s Lagoon

A hummingbird habitat at the southeast corner of the Washington Park lagoon would be the Park District's first: "It's like a bed and breakfast as they’re traveling to their destinations."

A view of the lagoon southeast end of Washington Park, where neighbors and the Chicago Park District are organizing a hummingbird garden.
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WASHINGTON PARK — Organizers planning a hummingbird habitat next to Washington Park’s lagoon have started fundraising to make their plans a reality.

Birdwatchers and park staff have developed plans for a hummingbird garden at the southeast corner of the lagoon. They’ve selected cardinal flower, wild columbine, foxglove beardtongue, obedient plant, jewelweed and white turtlehead as the best plants for the habitat.

With a location and the ideal plants selected, organizers are raising $3,000 to match a $3,000 donation from an anonymous donor. To donate to the effort, click here.

“This is the first time that the Chicago Park District has made a hummingbird garden,” said Judy Pollock, president of the Chicago Audubon Society. “We’re hoping this will demonstrate to them that they should put in a lot more. It’ll be a real focal point and really bring people closer to birds.”

Planting and replacement fencing along the edge of the lagoon could begin in May if funds are raised, said Peter Cassel, who lives in West Woodlawn just south of the park.

Cassel first reached out to the Park District — which connected him to the Audubon Society and a group of Washington Park birders — to develop the idea of a hummingbird habitat.

Since then, park neighbors at Fiske Elementary and elsewhere in Washington Park, Woodlawn and Hyde Park have joined in the effort, Cassel said.

Three staffers from the Park District have contributed to the planning, said Matthew Freer, assistant director of landscape.

They hope to have flowering plants as early as this summer, while the garden’s development “will be an ongoing project through next spring” with additional seeding and planting needed over the next year.

“We haven’t committed any funding yet because the project hasn’t taken off, but the Park District is committed to seeing the project through,” Freer said. “If we have to supplement the project with our operational dollars, we’re prepared to do that.”

Hummingbirds are migrating north for the warm season, so now is an ideal time to complete the garden project, Washington Park steward Jackie Smith said.

“The birds are coming this way, so you do what you can to make their trip easier,” Smith said. “It’s like a bed and breakfast as they’re traveling to their destinations — they have a place to stop over. If they can stop over in our park because we have a habitat, that would be amazing.”

A retired nurse and Hyde Park resident, Smith finds “joy and peace” in her position as park steward. She “fell in love” with Washington Park through an Audubon Society birdwatching program, during which she was “just fascinated by the number of birds and species in Washington Park that I had never seen before,” she said.

Washington Park is already a scenic location where Smith has seen tour buses stop for bird walks. The hummingbird garden will only add to the park’s reputation as a “treasure” in the community, she said.

“I just want to make this an environment that is inviting to everyone, not just the people who come on a tour bus,” Smith said. “The people who live across the street [can] come over and enjoy and participate in maintaining this park.”

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