About Cornell Park

Nature Play Space

In 2015 neighbors formed the Cornell Park Advisory Council, with the goal of increasing the use and visibility of the small, largely neglected, park at 5473 South Cornell Avenue. They quickly settled on the plan of making Cornell Park an example of “nature in the city”. Through 2015 and early 2016 they developed plans to introduce native plants into long neglected planting areas, install “natural” play elements; logs, branches, stones, etc.; for climbing and building, and installing an informational kiosk. A formal plan to transform Cornell Park into this "nature in the city" park was developed, submitted to the Park District Park Enhancement Committee, and approved in February of 2016.

In March of 2016 members of the Park Advisory Council began working with a group in the Park Districts Division of Culture, Arts, and Nature which was actively seeking to develop "nature play spaces" in Chicago Park District Parks, spaces in which children could interact creatively with natural material. Their interests lined up perfectly with the Advisory Council interests, and they shepherded the Advisory Council through a complicated process of petitions, public meetings, site evaluations, and formal documents.

In August of 2016 Cornell Park was officially designated a Chicago Park District Nature Play Space, the first community initiated Nature Play Space in the City. With grants from the Southeast Chicago Commission, the Hyde Park Bank, and Marian Realty we were able to purchase and install an informational kiosk, and purchase native plants for landscaping at the front of the Park.

In September of 2016 neighbors prepared planting beds and planted our native plants, and the arrival of the Park District Nature Oasis van, with our first load of natural play material to populate our nature play space was a great event

With the installation of our informational kiosk, and the establishing of our native plant collections, the Cornell Park Advisory Council initiated a series of nature oriented family events, sometimes with the help of the Chicago Park District Nature Oasis and the Lincoln Park Zoo. We sponsored several such events each year in 2017,2018, and 2019, and are anxious to resume them when such get togethers are possilbe.

Our annual Holiday caroling celebration has become a popular neighborhood event, and the bonfire allows many city kids to make their first "S"more". Since developing Cornell Park as a nature play space the park has become an important resource for neighborhood residents, families, and schools.

With support from the Chicago Park District and neighborhood institutions we hope to continue on our mission to make Cornell Park a model "nature in the city" park.