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Alan and Betsy Turovitz live on the edge of serenity. Lovelace Park, in extreme northwest Evanston, is home to ducks and geese, mallards and herons, as well as insects that buzz and hum as they pollinate the grasses and flowers. Its beauty is year-round.
The downpours of rain in 2019 left the grass too soggy to mow in some places, enhancing the natural beauty of the park, said Sigrid Pilgrim, who has organized efforts to maintain the park and co-founded Friends of Lovelace Park ( www.LovelacePark.com).
The following year, Friends, with permission and support from the City planted a small pollinator garden. City Staff also agreed to Friend’s request not to mow the area north of the sledding hill again which retains water for a long time loved by many ducks; a move, Mr. Turovitz said, that was “intended to support Evanston’s City Climate Action and Resiliency Plan [CARP].”
Friends made signs for the pollinator garden and around the unmowed meadow that later in the year already had some hairy asters blooming. The group raised $820, which they sent to the City to purchase more plants to enlarge the pollinator garden and possibly make a permanent sign for the Meadow.
They have the energy and dedication – and a donation of native wildflower seeds – but the Natural Areas ordinance approved earlier this year will delay that effort, perhaps until next year.
The ordinance acknowledges that many residents care for and tend parks and other natural areas in Evanston but requires City approval before such efforts are undertaken. Without City approval, the Friends cannot proceed, but the application required under the Natural Areas ordinance has not yet been developed.
By email, the RoundTable asked Public Works Director Dave Stoneback to clarify the City’s position about the request to develop a meadow at Lovelace Park. He responded, “The development of a grassy meadow with wildflowers in Lovelace Park is considered by staff to be the development of a natural area. Therefore, the development will have to be in compliance with the new ordinance. As indicated when the ordinance was adopted, due to staffing limitations, the natural areas implementation isn’t scheduled to start until June 2021.”
Ms. Pilgrim recounted other ways the Friends have tended the park. “We mulched trees and we removed mud after the pond flooded all the sidewalks and benches. We cleaned up playground sand that had been dumped there – shoveling it back into the sandbox and pulled bags of weeds.” There is also a group of “treasure hunters” that regularly pick up litter.
She said she understands that the City has a right to control what happens in its public parks but added, “It seems really silly to me that not to mow the grass and [to let us] add some native wildflower seeds would need an application – the form which hasn’t even yet been developed to do so.”
Ms. Pilgrim said the Friends do not intend to stand in the way of any active recreational uses of the park. Yet, the Meadow area does not see much, given how long it remains wet “I know Lovelace not a natural area,” she said. “It’s a park, but passive enjoyment, like bird-watching, is also a form of recreation.”
Ms. Pilgrim’s daughter compiled a history of Lovelace Park, from its beginnings a farmland to being the Doetsch Pit and then to becoming a park.