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.

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 – This is a placeholder. A full list of supporters will be added shortly.

In-kind Support – This is a placeholder. A full list of supporters will be added shortly.

Local Officials – This is a placeholder. A full list of supporters will be added shortly.


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.

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

April 2018 UPDATE:

NaturePlace is still a work in progress

The fence has been removed from the new Welles Park NaturePlace. The space is still a work in progress with new elements still to be added in the coming months. While we complete the space and anxiously await the growth of the plants planted last fall, please be careful to respect the space. We ask that everyone stays off the planted areas (mats of straw on the ground seen in the picture below) and remain on the trails or mulched areas. Also, dogs are never allowed in Chicago Park District natural areas.

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