A place to discover nature

in Lincoln Square

The Welles Park Advisory Council, in partnership with the Chicago Park District and Friends of the Parks and the Chicago Parks Foundation, created a space for nature in the city.

In a city known for its parks, its river and its lakefront, this space is special because it is designed for unstructured nature play for children of all ages.

This NaturePlace is on the site of a former playground near the busy intersection of Western and Montrose Avenues. That playground has been replaced with an exciting new type of park space full of hidden nooks, climbing challenges, and buzzing wildlife.

Enjoying the Welles Park NaturePlace:

Due to the combination of natural area and unstructured play areas, some guidelines to help you explore the space.

  • Please play with sticks, logs and rocks (but please leave them for others to enjoy)
  • While we love all kinds of wildlife, dogs are never allowed in Chicago Park District natural areas
  • Please let creativity lead the way but show respect each other and the diversity of ‘play’ we each enjoy in the space in our own way
  • Try exploring it with different senses. Listen, Touch, Watch, Smell (but please don’t taste)
  • NaturePlace is different year-round, hopefully each time you visit, you will see something different

We want to thank our community for its support in creating and maintaining this unique space!

But we need your help!

There is still much help we need to keep the site active and looking great so hopefully you’ll pitch in and help out in one of the following ways:

  • Funding – We require ongoing funds to program and maintain the site. Both cash and in-kind donations are welcome. Please contact us if you’d like to support the Nature Place or have an idea in order to support the site.
  • Volunteer – There are a number of events and activities taking place each year. Contact us to learn more about how you can help or attend one of the month ‘Greening Committee Meetings‘ listed on our events calendar.
  • Join Us – We always need more help on the Advisory Council and with the Greening Committee. To connect with the Greening Committee, please email

Site History:

The previous playground was removed in 2014 as the new playground on the north side of the park was added. Conversations between the Park District, the Advisory Council and local neighbors began to ask what does the park need and what can the space accommodate? A landscape architect was hired to develop conceptual visuals and a site plan for a space that would combine a natural area and play elements in an emerging field referred to as Nature Play.

Original conceptual site plan

There was such excitement about this vision for the park from neighbors that a plan was developed to raise additional funds and add new and creative elements to the design. A “crowd-funding” plan was developed by the Greening Committee of the Advisory Council and over $50,000 was raised to bring this vision to reality. Committed neighbors stepped forward with funding and the project received a $20,000 award from the Disney Company and National Park and Recreation Association through their ‘Meet Me at the Park’ initiative. Additional funds from Alderman Ameya Pawar and event-based grants were secured to round out the necessary financial support.


Fundraising Materials

With funding secured, the Park District was confident that the project could go forward and it was installed during late 2017 and the spring of 2018. Much of the work was accomplished with the City of Chicago’s Greencorps Chicago program, a green jobs training program operated by the Chicago Department of Transportation and WRD Environmental.

Check back on this site as we hope to develop a Plant and Wildlife Guide, a Walking Tour, and other resources for visitors to the Nature Place.

aerial of old WP playground.png
Aerial of old playground
Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 1.58.57 PM
Aerial showing new Nature Place site
under construction aerial
Site under construction
under construction log stepper
Log steppers under construction
fallen tree
This fallen tree has become a climbing element for the Nature Place

Articles about the Welles Park Nature Place:

What’s a nature play area and what will it look like at Welles Park – dna info  6/16/16

Welles Park Needs $30K To Go Wild With Proposed NaturePlace – dna info 1/12/17

Welles Park Wins $20,000 Grant To Fund NaturePlace – dna info 5/19/17

Meet Me at the Park: New nature play place coming to Welles Park – ABC7 5/18/17

Please allow us to recognize the many people who have helped make the NaturePlace a reality!

Donors –

Abu-Absi Family
Aimee Schnabel
Alafair Sparrow
Amy & Dan Kurt
Andy & Tracey Lowenthal
Andy Sabin Mary Donoghue
Ann and Phil Ponce
Anne Posner and Matt Wilson
Annie Conway
Ashmore Family
Atreyu and Rohan Scher
Barbara Reed
Barsano Family
Bill Bergfalk and Roland Hansen
Blanke Family
Bloom Yoga Studio
Brad Lando
Brannan Family
Brian Ohsowski
Bright Funds Foundation
Byerly Family
Calvin’s Mama
Carolyn Dean
Carral family
Carrie Harker
Carter and Audrey Stokes
Carter Family
Cecilia Siciliano
Chandlers Family
Chris, Nancy, and Pierce Mork Bakker
Christine and Bernie
Christine George
Conley Family
Conway Family
Craig and Alaina Tucker
Craig and Natasha Edwards
Dave and Alison Rio
Dave and Debbie Barford
David Rosholt and Jill Hutchison
Dawn Hillman
Dean Family
Dordek Landgraff Family
Durnbaugh Family
Elizabeth & Tarun Chandran
Emily and Ryan Anderson
Erin Daughton
Facility IT Group
Gehrett Family
Gormley Family
Greene Family
Haite Family
Hana ishikawa
Harkin / Luscombe Family
Hess Family
Honore Kligerman
In Memory of a Generous Soul. Bernadette ‘Gram-me’ Miller
In Memory of Dave Sevening
Jeremy Schaffer
Joanne Dude
Joe Kennedy & Nancy Weber
John & Linda Vanderpoel
Jon and Mary Heggen
Julie Peterson
Karen & Jim Nevotti
Karen Loevy Horowitz
Karen Reinbold
Karen Semone
Kate and Jim Yoshida
Katzenstein Family
Kaune Familly
Kayleen Catus
Kevin & Kellen Murphy
Key Family
Kim, Jim, Sienna, and Jameson O’Malley
Laura M.
Liz Drapa
Malkin Family
Maness Family
Marisa Lewis
Mark & Diane Adams
Mark and Joni Croll
Mark Vanderpoel & Linda Coady
Mary Blankenheim & Jim Gallery
Maxwell Grote
McKone Family
Michael & Suzanne Schmidt
Michelle Favia
Mike and Julie Beazley
Moran Family
Morowitz Family
Nancy Kujawinski
Nancy VanderHye
Natalie Holden
National Christian Foundation
National Recreation and Parks Association
Nick Memisovski
North Park Elementary School Families
Pantea Vaziri
Phil and Gina Byers
Rachel Holtzman
Rachel Kligerman and Kevin Gilbert
Rebecca Zemans and Ryan Blitstein
Rieger Family
Roark Family
Robin and Jane Thompson
Safari Sarah
Sam Coady
Sara & Chris Parkes
Sara Schirmer
Sarah Morrison
Saunders Family
Schulter Foundation
Schulze Family
Scott and Betsy Serilla
Sean & Victoria Wiedel
Shirley Galvin
Siegel/Jacobs Family
Simmons Family
Sonjay Punwani
Strang Wolf Family
Sue Smock-Lawson
Susan Bruck
Suzanne Rock
Swedish Covenant Hospital
Tamara & Dragan Dacic
Tamara Chase
Thomas and Gail Vanderpoel
Tim and Katie McAvoy
Tom and Maria Elena Kenney
Tom Greenhaw
Tom Jacks
Tracy Thompson
Trudie Acheatel
Tyler Vanderpoel
Warner Family
Warren Gast
Waters Elementary Families
William Perry
William Vanderpoel
Zweifel Family

In-kind Support – 

Thor Uremovich – Graphic Design
Hallinan Family – Kiosk Construction

Local Officials –

Alderman Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward

If you have any questions about this project or anything related to the Welles Park Advisory Council please email us at