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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Celebrate The South Shore Nature Sanctuary’s 20th Birthday Saturday With Performances, Scavenger Hunts And Vegan Treats

The South Shore Nature Sanctuary is "a wonderful place to interact with time on a different scale — natural time instead of city time," its volunteer steward said.

South Shore Nature Sanctuary visitors, seen here in October 2021 on a walk against breast cancer.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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SOUTH SHORE — The South Shore Nature Sanctuary’s volunteer stewards will host a 20th birthday party for the beloved lakefront spot Saturday with a live music performance, scavenger hunts, educational tours and more.

The South Shore Nature Sanctuary, dedicated on June 30, 2002, is one of the Park District’s oldest natural areas. The former dumping ground for the South Shore Country Club is now home to native plants and animals in distinct, miniature biomes, including dunes, woodland, savanna, prairie, shrubland and wetland.

The 20th anniversary celebration is held 1-4 p.m. Saturday at the sanctuary, 7059 S. South Shore Drive. To RSVP and see more information about the event, click here.

The South Shore Nature Sanctuary is “a wonderful place to interact with time on a different scale — natural time instead of city time,” said Susannah Ribstein, a member of the South Shore Cultural Center’s park advisory council and the sanctuary’s volunteer steward.

“I see people there who use it in a very personal way, like an outdoor living room,” Ribstein said. “But there are thousands of people who live in South Shore who don’t go there, who don’t know that it’s there. That’s another reason for … this event: so as many people find out about it as possible.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Some of the plant life at the South Shore Nature Sanctuary, as seen in July 2019.

Chicago musician and artist Lia Kohl will perform a piece Saturday created “in conversation with the sounds of the sanctuary,” she said. The piece incorporates sounds from birds, bugs and water recorded at the sanctuary several weeks ago alongside live radio signals. It will be played through four radios.

Kohl had never visited the sanctuary until she prepared for Saturday’s performance.

“I had been to the South Shore Cultural Center before, but didn’t know about the little gem just behind it,” she said.

“I think the layers of city life, human life and natural life collide in a really beautiful way here. I also really appreciate how much work the volunteers have put into cultivating native plant life here. It’s a beautiful ecosystem, and it’s wonderful to see and hear and smell.”

Arts activities, scavenger hunts for kids and educational tours of the sanctuary will be held throughout the day. Saturday’s party will also feature vegan treats from South Shore’s Betty Bot Bakery, 7100 S. South Shore Drive.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Spray-painted wood reading “South Shore Nature Sanctuary,” seen on display in October 2021.

Resident Margi Gross was a key advocate for the sanctuary’s creation, advisory council member Kathy Henning said. Henning joined the park advisory council in the early 2000s, shortly after the sanctuary was founded.

Gross — who has since died — and other park advocates would push for the sanctuary’s development at Park District budget meetings year after year, Henning said.

Around the turn of the millennium, city leaders took action to reflect residents’ interest in developing more habitats for migrating birds along the lakefront, Henning said. Chicago sits along the Mississippi Flyway, a major migratory route.

A South Shore sanctuary “went from something we’d been talking about for years to something that was on the front burner and got developed,” Henning said.

Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley spoke to the need for more natural areas like South Shore’s at the sanctuary’s 2002 dedication, Ribstein said.

Other lakefront natural areas on the South Side include the 63rd Street Beach Dune and the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, which stretches from McCormick Place to 47th Street.

Henning’s mobility is limited, so she no longer visits the South Shore Nature Sanctuary frequently. Its 20th anniversary snuck up on her, so she’s going to try and make it out for Saturday’s event, she said.

The sanctuary “has one of the most spectacular views of the Chicago skyline that there is anywhere in the city,” Henning said.

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