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Cultivating the Wild on Chicago’s South Side

Cultivating the Wild on Chicago’s South Side

Stories of People and Nature at Eden Place Nature Center

(p.166) 17 Cultivating the Wild on Chicago’s South Side
Michael BrysonMichael Howard
University of Chicago Press

This chapter tells the story of Eden Place Nature Center, a 3.4-acre oasis of restored land located in an African American community on Chicago’s South Side, that was reclaimed over the course of several years after having been polluted and abused as an illegal dump site for decades. Michael and Amelia Howard, residents of the Fuller Park neighborhood in Chicago and the founders of Eden Place, galvanized local volunteers to clean up mountains of debris and created a safe and welcoming green space for their community’s citizens, who live in a deindustrialized environment marked by poverty, toxic pollution, and persistent violence. Eden Place has evolved into a space that welcomes both the tame and the wild, the human and nonhuman; provides a theater for their meaningful interaction; and stokes the innate wildness within its stewards and visitors. Through stories told by Michael Howard, this chapter reveals how Eden Place emerged as a multifaceted manifestation of the “urban wild.” Here people of all ages and races are rebuilding positive connections to nature, facilitating encounters with plants and animals, repairing a sense of community, and healing wounds of racial and environmental injustice inflicted over centuries.

Keywords:   Chicago, Michael Howard, Eden Place Nature Center, Fuller Park, Urban Ecology, pollution, environmental injustice, African American, urban wild

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