Success Story: How Eden Place Nature Center Became the Community’s Outdoor Garden and Play Space
Twenty years ago the neighborhood where Chicago's Eden Place Nature Center now sits lingered in pollution and lead poisoning caused by freight trains to the West, idling long hours next to their homes, and the Dan Ryan Expressway to the East, whose heavy volume of cars spewing leaded gas contributed to dense air and toxic soil for residents. Seeing residents become accustomed to the resulting health issues – including severe asthma and numerous tracheotomies, community activists decided the air pollution and illegal dumping on the vacant lots needed to stop.
Today, thanks to their hard labor and diligent political activism, the location resting next to the tall train beds boasts abundant gardens and green space for residents to enjoy fresh air, fresh plants, and fresh food. Wild animals flock here, residents gather, adults learn green jobs – and the youth learn to harvest garden-fresh food, nurture egg-bearing hens, and the benefits of clean outdoor space for playing, working out, and reconnecting with nature. To this community, Eden Place gives an alternative to gas station groceries and parking lot coffee meetings. As part of the America’s Great Outdoors listening tour this past summer, Eden Place residents and leaders shared their story, their beautiful nature center and their deliciously fresh food with officials across government agencies, from USDA to Interior to EPA and HHS.