Neighbors plant the pollinator garden in Lovelace Park.
Photo from Sigrid Pilgrim
Neighbors plant the pollinator garden in Lovelace Park. Photo from Sigrid Pilgrim

Sigrid Pilgrim has been a fan of Lovelace Park since 1983, when she and her family moved to a home nearby.

Now she is one of its Friends.

Alarmed last year after reading about the decline of the insect population, especially pollinators, Ms. Pilgrim said, “I put out a note to the Hillside neighborhood list-serve, asking what they would think about putting a pollinator garden at Lovelace Park.

“In many ways, Lovelace Park is a dead park. It has grass, trees and shrubs, but it’s not alive. There are no pollinators.”

Neighbors – about 40 of them – welcomed the idea. The group contacted the City about putting in a pollinator garden, meeting with staff of the City’s Parks and Recreation division.

The City would clear an area for the garden, Ms. Pilgrim said, “and we were going to finalize an agreement at a meeting house – and then COVID happened.”

A call from Leslie Shad of Natural Habitat Evanston kept the momentum going. “She said the Highland Garden Club had bought native plants to donate to Evanston schools,” which by that time had been closed by the pandemic.

“She asked if we wanted the plants,” Ms. Pilgrim said. “We asked the City, and they said, ‘Sure, go ahead.’… We had to figure out where to put it [the garden], because when you first plant those tiny little plants, you have to have access to water. And there’s not a lot of access to that at Lovelace Park, but there is this tiny little, I call it the mini water-fall, and the City offered to put a nozzle there and the hose. So we now have this tiny little pollinator garden.”

The group, now called Friends of Lovelace Park, has two main goals: to help the City with maintenance of the park and to continue the efforts with the pollinator garden.

After a major flood earlier this year, the group cleared mud and plant debris from the main entryway. They have added mulch and weeded their pollinator garden, with workdays scheduled via the list-serve or the website. A painted turtle has been seen enjoying the area, Ms. Pilgrim said, “So now we have a mascot.”

Even with the pollinator garden planted and tended and the commitment to help the City with maintenance, Ms. Pilgrim sees more opportunities to make Lovelace Park more natural.

“As the pollinator garden continues to grow, then maybe we can put in another circle … in the same area, make it sunnier, you know, because this one is kind of more like a woodsy, shady kind of garden.”

The grass on the hillside was overgrown last year, because the wet ground prevented crews using their mower there. “The grass grew really tall and it looks so, so, so pretty. And then all of a sudden it got mowed down. … Apparently some people didn’t like the tall grass so they were complaining about it to the alderman, and then they ultimately translated to City.”

This year, though, in cooperation with the City, the neighbors will put up signs explaining why the grass in one area will continue to grow unmown, a first step to turning the area back to a natural prairie.

The parcel of land in northwest Evanston that became Lovelace Park from Doestch’s Sand and Gravel Pit is returning to its natural state.

More information about Friends of Lovelace Park may be found at lovelacepark.com