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Park District Planting Its First-Ever Orchard In Blossoming Rogers Park

By Linze Rice | May 11, 2017 5:55am
 Triangle Play Lot Park will get a spate of fruit-bearing trees for a mini-orchard.
Triangle Play Lot Park will get a spate of fruit-bearing trees for a mini-orchard.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

ROGERS PARK — A once blighted corner at the city's northernmost point is soon to blossom into an abundant community green space filled with fruit trees, public art and more. 

Triangle Park, a plot of rolling land along Juneway Terrace in the North of Howard area of Rogers Park, is slated to become the site of the Chicago Park District's first-ever community orchard.

Though there are already orchards in Kilbourn Park and Skinner Park, those trees were donated through an organization and didn't come from the park district itself, said Eva McCann of the Willye White Park Advisory Council. 

McCann said the goal is for the council and the park district to partner with local schools and other neighborhood groups and organizations to help maintain and nurture the trees.

Once the branches bear fruit, neighbors will be allowed to pick and eat it — a "true gift to the neighborhood that will last for generations," McCann said. 

"Triangle Park is currently an underused space," she said. "This will create sustainable resources for the community, and be an attraction as people are passing through on their bikes." 

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the park's advisory council and the park district are holding a meeting at Willye B. White Park's field house, 1610 W. Howard St., to see design possibilities for the space, as well as learn what types of trees may grow best in the area.

The plans also call for a sculpture garden to accompany the orchard in the future by including Triangle Park in the park district's rotating sculpture program, as well as showcase work from local sculptors. 

RELATED: 'We Grow Kids': Garden At Gale Elementary Sows More Than Just Plants

RELATED: Gale Elementary Garden Club In Bloom After Winning Nearly $200,000

The park, which butts up to southern Evanston, is a green field without official programming, but does offer trees, tables and a longstanding garden. A new bike route that connects Edgewater to Evanston now flows through it as well.

It also been the site of some unseemly controversy over the years, in particular for its lack of bathroom facilities that has prompted some of its users to use an adjacent private parking lot as a restroom instead.

But it's also quickly shaping up to be the neighborhood's green epicenter — where fresh-grown food and nature are available for community members for free. 

Across the street from Triangle Park is the Howard Area Community Garden, which grows vegetables, flowers, herbs and other small plants using student volunteers from DePaul University's Biological Sciences greenhouse. 

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the group will be holding its second annual plant sale to help fund additional gardening boxes for residents to grow their own food in, as well as pay for a new patio and public gathering area at the site.

Having worked in the garden since it first sprouted in 1982, Katje Sabin said she's seen how "the power of nurturing plants in a cooperative way [can] grow and nourish community" not just by boosting property values, but by being able to offer free food to neighbors.

"I have witnessed firsthand how our little garden has increased pride and hope in our rather embattled corner of Rogers Park," Sabin said. "We have kids, teens, families, seniors, veterans, developmentally disabled folks, and a wide range of nationalities, religions and economic levels represented in our membership, neighbors all working alongside each other peacefully."

Just around the corner at 1631 W. Jonquil Terrace, Gale Elementary School's garden club recently earned nearly $200,000 for a complete overhaul of its outdoor gardens.

That money will pay for features such as a walking labyrinth, a stage, seats, additional crops and more that will be planted, cared for, harvested and eaten by Rogers Parkers at no-cost.  

"The edible urban forestry concept is one that is looking overdue for representation​ in our area, and it's exciting to see it get this kind of boost," Sabin said.