Working to restore and care for natural habitat along the North Shore Channel

A corridor for wildlife on Chicago's North Shore

Project sites are located along the North Shore Channel as it passes through Evanston, about two miles west of Lake Michigan. In 2017, we began phased work in sections of the Ladd Arboretum and Twiggs and Harbert Parks and also planted a demonstration garden in front of the Morton Civic Center. In 2018-19, we are expanding our work in the channel-side parks.

The North Shore Channel is an artificial waterway, which opened in 1910. Construction left the area raw, and over the years, weedy and invasive plants arrived. But as disturbed as these channel lands were, over time they became an important corridor for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Fortunately, Evanston has long been committed to preserving and protecting public lands, and in 1960, public officials had the foresight to secure long-term leases of channel lands from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which owns them. A 1972 plan envisioned a "channel lands greenbelt," to include the Ladd Arboretum and a series of parks.

The North Shore Channel Habitat Project is committed to carrying on this legacy and preserving and improving these lands for generations to come.

These project sites join other Evanston birding hot spots, including the Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary and Perkins Woods.

Site plan is by Living Habitats, a Chicago-based landscape design firm.

Ladd Arboretum

The Ladd Arboretum is a 17-acre strip of land between the North Shore Channel and McCormick Boulevard. When the arboretum was dedicated in 1960, the section from Bridge Street north was intended to have a more "rustic" look; that is where we are focusing our work. From the Ecology Center, walk northeast to see work in progress along the channel banks. Plant lists are here.

Harbert Park

This 13.5-acre park on the east bank of the channel between Main Street and Dempster is named for suffrage activist Elizabeth Boynton Harbert (1843-1925). The northern end of the park is dominated by towering cottonwood trees. On the southern end is a patch of trees with dense undergrowth that's especially good for bird watching. We are enhancing habitat in both areas.

Civic Center Habitat Garden

This garden at the corner of Ridge Avenue and Leonard Place demonstrates principles of bird-friendly gardening. Layered landscaping includes trees and shrubs and wildflowers, grasses, and sedges native to northern Illinois. A list of the 60+ plants is available here. A Divvy Bike station is next to the garden, and parking and bike racks are behind the Civic Center.

Twiggs Park

Across the North Shore Channel from the Ladd Arboretum is a park named for eminent Evanstonian William H. Twiggs (1865-1960). From the intersection of Simpson and Brown, walk past the community garden to reach an overlook deck. Native plantings are on the surrounding slopes. During warmer months, you may spot a great blue heron.