I was originally going to title this article, “The Beginning.” That title seemed simple, basic, and to the point. However, when I challenged myself to look back in the beginning of our Nature Center, I realized that there was nothing simple about it. Except simply extraordinary!
The title is correct. Our Nature Center didn’t start out that way. Actually, there is a lot of inspiring history that is behind it. It all started out as a dispensary for the Tuberculosis Sanitarium from 1905 to the 1970’s. Those who were able to live alone would get their medicine from the building that would later become the Nature Center. 158 acres of North Park were used to quarantine and treat patients with Tuberculosis. The beautiful natural area surrounding the Sanitarium was used as a positive remedy for the ill. Patients could go on strolls, admire the scenery, and rejuvenate their strength within the acres.
With nature working as a positive treatment for these poor people, things remained quiet for some time. All that was to change, however, when the Sanitarium closed in the 1970’s on the North Park Village grounds. Things were no longer peaceful since there were no conservation laws to act as a guard. From the research, I’ve looked into and the other snippets of information I’ve gathered, it was quite interesting to discover that during this time, visitors began fly-dumping construction debris in the area. Some of this litter can still be seen today.
In the 1980’s, under Mayor Jane Byrne’s management, the North Park Villiage was to be torn down and made into a strip mall and construction was to begin to create more condominiums. When things begin to look their bleakest, in enters the hero of the story, Joseph B. Cicero. When Mr. Cicero heard of this project, he and several Northeastern Illinois University professors began a protest. I have to admit that this really impressed me. It may have happened years ago before I was born, but it’s inspiring. To think that these people cared enough to actually protest against a movement approved by the mayor says a lot. This natural area we may all take for granted sometimes, but it must have been something very special to them. Special enough to fight for.
Well, they were victorious! The mayor listened to this small group and canceled the project. North Park Village was spared all its rich land, the people were satisfied, and the start of the Nature Center was born. In 1989, the North River Commission secured an easement that would prohibit any development of the property. It was to be maintained as nature for the next 75 years. I personally found this story amazing!
Now, 37 years later, the Nature Center is the sanctuary of the North Park Villiage. We hold wetland, woodland, and savanna trails. The trails are about 20 miles long and they hold a large diversity of woodland life and flora.
Thanks to ordinary folk raising their voices, we now have a community full of natural resources and a sanctuary of beauty. Thank you, Mr. Cicero, for taking the time to care about the North Park Villiage and for starting the path of success for our Nature Center.
Thanks for reading and please follow, comment, and share with others! Come back soon to read my next article, “The Maple Syrup Fest!”