We often talk about “connecting with nature” and how important it is for urban residents to have access to green space. It improves our physical health, reduces our stress, and even improves our mood to have a world-class park near home.
Chicago is lucky to have a spectacular urban oasis in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I know because I recently returned to the Chicago area, as the wife of the new president of the Field Museum, and I was delighted to experience this wonderful national park so near the city on a recent trip with NPCA and museum staff. Our two organizations have formed a vibrant partnership to support the lakeshore as one of the most important natural areas in the Chicago metro area.
What’s so special about this place? We saw so much to marvel at.
We walked the trail at Miller Woods, through “dune and swale" communities dominated by black oaks. What an amazing topography only found around the Great Lakes, supporting very special native flora and fauna. We saw the rare native Lupine nearly in bloom. This is a plant that the endangered Karner Blue butterfly needs to reproduce and thrive. And, of course, blueberry bushes were all about. We also saw over 50 species of birds, including seven different kinds of warblers, though our late spring affected their migration through the park. My favorite sighting was three red-headed woodpeckers bickering over a prime nesting hole in one of the black oaks.
A couple of years ago, NPCA and the Field Museum teamed up to develop a strategic vision for the park, and now we are working to implement the recommendations of that plan by letting more Chicagoans know this amazing resource is right in their back yards. We also work to promote science and research at the park, ecological restoration, and responsible management of the park’s natural communities, especially to help mitigate the effects of climate change in our region.
Many, many more people need to enjoy the trails at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It is a magical place that beckons all to reconnect with the natural world and is truly Chicago’s neighborhood national park.
Plan your own trip to Indiana Dunes: www.nps.gov/indu/