Bob-o-link Meadow in Jackson Park: a re created natural area


Return to Jackson Park home for links to more the Jackson Park Natural Areas, including Wooded Island and the Lagoons.

Learn and see much more, and do your volunteer check in with the steward at Reach the stewards, Norm Bell and Gail Perry:

Next workdays- 2nd Satudays 10, 9-12. Spring- late fall. Meet at south end of the meadow by golf driving range parking lot. October 13

DID YOU KNOW...about the Bobolink Meadow. Norm and Gail write...July 2017

Over the past couple of years Bobolink Meadow has received positive attention from at least 2 prestigious conservation organizations. Last Fall we had a special workday for members of The Nature Conservancy board of directors, and this Spring The Nature Conservancy sent a documentary film crew from Washington D.C. to Bobolink and other sites to film for a documentary they are preparing on volunteerism in nature areas. In 2013 the Bobolink Meadow received the prestigious Chicago Wilderness award for Restoration and Native Landscaping.

There is now (July 2017 some concern that the Meadow and woods could be affected by plans to expand the driving range. JPAC is working to register its strong objection.

Note, JPAC's board is increasingly concerned about proposed general expansion of the golf footprint and dominance in the park, squeezing much existing out, and the decision to keep and in place and expand the golf driving range. Problems include--
- potential threat to Boblink Meadow (permanent or during construction).
- loss the informal dog park and tennis courts to the northeast with no more than a vague commitment by pd to evaluate and consider 1:1 replacement (where, when?)
- opportunity loss- to realize Olmsted's plan for a great lawn and walking connection of the park along the wet side of the Drive, via open lands.
We are also concerned with golf proposal in our sister park South Shore to change the nature area, with ceding of prime lakeshore and its downtown and other views to golfers.

JPAC will be pressing address of these matters with the Golf Alliance, Park District and at the Alderman's Council and JPAC's golf committee.

Visit and check in at You can also contact the stewards via Note that groups can arrange additional days with the steward.

Bob-o-link Meadow signage text

Editors' note. Only part of anticipated signage was installed. More is expected in 2011?. The text below cannot of course tell the full story of the Meadow and Woods, even since they were set aside in 1982 and (at least the Meadow and part of the Woods) recreated several times in accord with changing missions and visions. Both the Park District and the Council are dedicated to a recreated suite of habitats and flora typical of this region in ancient times. The "heavy use" referred to in the third sign includes as a Nike Missile Base--in fact, still remaining are drains and other infrastructure some of which reach the surface. The creation of the Meadow was in part an attempt to make up for the years the area was so heavily used and sequestered from park users and use the return to park space to create new opportunities for wildlife and visitors. The choice of a "meadow" for the south part especially was in par forced by the heavy compaction of the area (including the adjacent Golf Driving Range) during especially removal of the Nike Base. Parts of the base itself were built on filled in lagoon.

Bobolink Meadow. A protected place for wildlife and people

Welcome to Bobolink Meadow It was named after an Illinois grassland bird that once nested here. This land was created when part of a large lakeshore marsh was filled in to create Jackson Park for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Later the area was used for athletic fields and, from 1958 to 1971, as a U.S. Army missile base. When the base closed, only weeds grew in this hardened soil. Bobolink Meadow was set aside as a nature sanctuary in 1982 and was seeded with native grasses and wildflowers, creating more habitat for wildlife. Over the years, the ground is becoming less compacted as plant roots, worms and microbes enrich the soil.

Visitor Guidelines.
Recreational use of this area is reserved for activities such as bird watching, walking and nature study. Please show respect for the animals and plants by observing the following guidelines: 1. Keep dogs leashed and on the trail. 2. Stay on the path. Birds and many other small animals live here. 3. Do not pick flowers or remove any other natural elements. 4. Do not feed the wildlife. 5. No swimming. Keep off the ice in winter. [Back includes winter close up.]


Prairie Takes Root. from tarmac to tall grass.
Trees and shrubs did not grow well in the poor soil left after many years of heavy use before the sanctuary was created. Tarmac and trucks had compacted the ground.Tall grasses like big bluestem and flowers like the compass plant, New England aster and nodding wild onion are among 30 native species planted here. These tough native prairie plants have dug in with their strong root systems.Some grasses have roots that go at least as deep as the plants grow high. As roots decay, they contribute organic material to the soil. [Top: plant identifier for 20 plants with roots, side by side]


Lagoon Life. Residents of an urban lagoon
At the water’s edge, watch for turtles and crayfish. The presence of crayfish indicates good water quality. Bluegills and catfish swim beneath the dark water. Look closer and you might find swarms of aquatic insects gliding across the surface or swimming beneath, and snails creeping on the bottom .Swallows glide by catching insects in mid-air and dragonflies skim above the water searching for food and mates. Canada geese, wood ducks, and great blue herons retreat to the islands for safety. Shoreline plants provide habitat for muskrats, beaver and red-winged blackbirds. The plants also stabilize the banks and prevent soil from washing into the water. [Pics: painted turtle, water strider, wood ducks, red-winged blackbird]


Controlled burns. Fire keeps the prairie healthy.

Occasional controlled burns in Bobolink Meadow keep the prairie healthy in several ways. Fire burns off old vegetation, allowing the sunlight to warm the soil and help seeds germinate. It also controls the growth of invasive trees and shrubs that would shade out prairie plants.Fire does not harm prairie plants, because below the ground their root systems survive. Animals stay safe by retreating to burrows, flying away, or fleeing to other areas.The Chicago Park District uses controlled burns to manage its prairie habitats. These burns are carefully planned and carried out by qualified crews. [Expert conducting burn]


The Woods at Bobolink Meadow. A habitat restored
Soil conditions in this 2-acre area favor the growth of woody plants. Before the 1990s, many of the trees were weedy, fast-growing, self-seeded “volunteers” such as white mulberry, white poplar and box elder. To restore the woods, oaks, hawthorn and other trees and shrubs that are native to moist Illinois woodlands were introduced. These include species that are valuable to birds and other wildlife as sources of food and habitat. Habitat restoration recreates the colors, textures and layers of natural woods—with shorter ground plants, mid-level branching shrubs, small trees and taller trees forming a high canopy. [Pics: Hawthorn, European Buckthorn, Bur Oak]

Norm Bell and Gail Perry write August 25, 2011 about an ambitious restoration-habitat creation plan, funded under Chicago Park District and Pizzo contractor.

Hello JPAC nature consultants,

Jason, Zhanna, and Evan (the Pizzo ecologist) showed up at our little workday this morning. We had a very interesting walk through and discussion of the Bobolink Meadow. Funding has been approved for an extensive, multistage, multiyear, restoration project in the meadow. It would include:

1. In the woodland, removing invasives and establishing an understory of native grasses, forbes and shrubs, and planting appropriate native trees. (this is similar to what they are doing in sections of the Wooded Island)

2. Creating a savanna-like transition area between the woodland and the prairie.

3. Extending and increasing the diversity of prairie grasses and forbs in the prairie area.

4. Controlling invasives and establishing appropriate native plant communities along the Lagoon.

This is very exciting. Work will start soon and continue through the winter. By Spring some areas should be ready for seeding and planting plugs. There was talk of 20,000 plugs for prairie areas, so they are thinking big. We should have some written plans from Pizzo to share with you soon.

We keep finding new plants blooming in the prairie to add to the pictures already posted on our website. (Mid-Summer Flowers) I'm attaching two pictures. The purple one is Desmodium canadense (Showy Tick Trefoil). We thought the yellow one might be sensitive plant, but it's not, so we're stumped. Any ideas? (pics are said to be posted in Checking link.)

Norm and Gail