HYDE PARK — A carpet of flames crawled across Nichols Park Wednesday evening as the park was intentionally set ablaze.
“It’s really neat to watch,” said Stephanie Franklin, the park advisory council president.
Crews were out Wednesday evening at the park, 1320 E. 54th St., to perform a controlled burn of the park’s meadow.
“We think that it should be burned every year — minimally every-other year,” Franklin said, adding that the meadow had not been burned for three years.
Burning down the dead grass and flowers in the Nichols Park Wildflower Meadow enriches the soil, clears a path for new plants and kills off weeds, according to Franklin.
Many of the children playing on the nearby playground were unaware of the benefits.
“Why are you burning our park?” many yelled as the crews poured flaming gasoline on the dry grass.
The crews showed up largely unannounced, arriving when the wind conditions were right to keep the flames easily under control.
“That could have been a teaching moment if someone had been there to explain the benefits of prairie fire,” Franklin said, who also wasn’t told the controlled burn was happening.
The park district did post a notice that the meadow could be burned this year.
“Controlled burn management is an efficient and economical tool that reduces the amount of pesticide that otherwise may be needed to control invasive plants,” according to a Chicago Park District notice posted at the park. “Fire helps to promote species diversity by controlling invasive woody shrubs and trees.”
The crews were finished in about an hour and left behind a blackened patch where the meadow once was.