Nov. 26, 2008 – Five years ago, the Paseo Prairie Garden began as a hope and a dream, and today it's become one of the few parks in the Logan Square neighborhood. Despite countless hours of work and dedication put in by volunteers, community activists now face more serious issues in their effort to maintain the safe environment for the neighborhood.
Paseo Prairie Garden in Logan Square
Located at North Milwaukee and Kedzie Avenues, adjacent to a Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line stop, the garden was conceived by a number of community groups, including the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Logan Square Walks.
With the help of Ald. Rey Colon (35th), the city-owned property was given a new lease on life. Construction began in 2003, led by Grounds for Growth garden designer Laurie Tanenbaum. Other organizations, such as the community development organization archi-treasures, also pitched in, as well as hundreds of volunteers.
However, all has not been rosy in the garden since opening some five years ago. Increasing amounts of garbage and the presence of homeless people have caused concern.
"This is a real problem for us," said Tanenbaum, a 30-year resident of Logan Square. "We have our own homeless population in the neighborhood and the garden is a big draw."
Empty beer bottles and plastic cups have littered the ground, with graffiti sprayed across an adjacent brick wall. Tanenbaum said there's currently no coordinated cleanup procedure, but many people pick up the litter on their own. This issue will be raised in a "Friends of Paseo Prairie Garden" meeting in the spring, she said.
The garden, built primarily for senior citizens living in the nearby Logan Vistas apartments, slowly evolved through the years. A brick pathway was built in 2005 and a rose bed and performance stage were completed two years ago. In July, wooden tables and chairs were added. A ribbon-cutting ceremony occurred last month.
Seniors have pitched in with the ongoing cleanup efforts. "This is a place where we come sit down and talk," said Leonor Cabello, through the help of a translator. "I look around and see all of this, so I decide to pick it up."
As a resident of Logan Vistas, Cabello doesn't have her own backyard and relies on the garden to get a breath of fresh air. Cabello said she usually sits outside on the weekends for three to four hours at a time.
The convergence of homeless people around the garden began immediately after the construction of the deck, but Cabello and others have noticed this becoming less of an issue in the past few weeks.
"They're not going to want to be in a place where there's a lot of people gathered," said Rosita de la Rosa, the director of inter-generational organizing for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. "I told the seniors, 'If you don't take ownership of this spot, they're going to think it's theirs only.' I think they finally got the message."
De la Rosa has been an advocate for the garden since day one and sees another problem developing: theft. Steel bolts used to tie down the deck have been stolen, prompting community activists to weld new ones into place.
Despite setbacks, plans are moving forward for more improvements. The addition of wrought iron fencing around parts of the garden, as well as improved water drainage are in the works. De la Rosa also said they hope to build railings on the deck and provide more garbage cans in the near future.
"It's taken a lot of different people and different organizations to help bring this to fruition, and it will continue," said Joyce Fernandes, executive director of archi-treasures. "There's always a sustainability aspect of these projects and a need for people to come out and volunteer."
At Play Civic Associations & Community Groups Eco & Environment Editor’s Choice Local Politics Parks & Public Land Planning & Development Politics Public
alderman rey colon garden logan square logan square neighborhood association seniors