What a great day today for Eden Place - an amazing story on Chicago's south side about turning a very dangerous eyesore into a haven for nature in the heart of a community where many kids wouldn't otherwise have the chance to experience the great outdoors.
A high-level Obama Administration team has been in Chicago this week listening and learning from our region's conservation experiences as they develop the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative. Hundreds of people, many of them young people, have attended listening sessions and breakout groups as we convey what we've learned and accomplished trying to protect and restore the great outdoors in the heart of our metropolis. (There are easy ways to participate at the initiative's website.)
The team also actually got outside to see a few sites, and today there was a great event and tour at Eden Place. A decade ago, Eden Place was an illegal waste dump, filled with 200 tons of drums, concrete, tires, lead - a two-tory dangerous mess in a residential neighborhood.
Michael Howard wanted to do something about lead contamination in the neighborhood, so he organized the community to clean up the dump. But he didn't stop there - Eden Place is now a real oasis, where kids can experience woods, prairie, wetland, grow and eat food, see how chickens are raised, and much more, all within a stone's throw of the Dan Ryan expressway. Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program partnered with Eden Place to mentor young environmentalists with leadership skills.
Today, leaders from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Depts of Interior, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and the EPA were all on hand to tour Eden Place. They got to see that America's Great Outdoors includes small but wonderful sites where people are connecting with the land in ways and places that are suprising and wonderful. What a great story, and a great day for Michael Howard and his team. We, and our kids, need a lot more Michael Howards, and a lot more Eden Places, all over Chicago and America.
P.S. - Saturdays are a great day to check out Eden Place - they have a farmer's market running Saturdays through September 25th, 8am to 3pm.