walking trails

The Edward R. Ladd Arboretum dates back to 1956 and the planting of a single Gingko tree in memory of Edward Rixon Ladd, founder and publisher of the Evanston Review. Officially dedicated in 1960, the arboretum is a 23-acre narrow strip of land that lies between McCormick Boulevard and the North Shore Channel. It showcases native trees
and plants arranged by family, such as oak, pine and birch. Rotary International Friendship Garden contains All-American Rose selections along its promenade. There is also a bird sanctuary, which, through its design, attracts flight stopovers during migrations. The location along the North Channel hosts kingfishers, northern orioles, foxes, beavers, herons and snapping turtles. Arboretum paths are open to runners, cyclists and walkers.

In 1974, the Evanston Ecology Center was born on arboretum grounds as the result of Evanston citizens privately campaigning for and successfully funding it.

The Ecology Center is the educational nucleus of the arboretum and offers classes, lectures, programs and exhibitions for all ages. It houses a collection of natural history exhibits of fossils, seeds and mounted specimens.

The Community Gardening Rental Program allows Evanston residents to rent a plot of land from mid-March to mid-November. Four community gardens are located throughout the city offering full plot sizes of 400 square feet and half-plots of 200 square feet. Sites provide water, compost, wheelbarrows and wood chips for renter use. Many senior citizens take advantage of this opportunity.

Other programming includes summer camps with age-appropriate activities for 3 to 14-year-olds, classes on environmental education, conservation and natural history. Nature-themed birthday parties are a fun option for children 4 and older, and the fee includes a staffed class and facility rental. Among birthday themes are Reptile Romp, Nature Rubber Stamping, Bug Birthday and five others.

Children can also volunteer to be part of the “Critter Crew,” which helps staff members care for abandoned animals that live on the premises.

Extending into the community, the Ecology Center conducts after school programs for 5 to 14-year-olds at local community centers and the staff teaches Outdoor Adventure classes to a diverse population of Evanston Township High School students. Access to the waterway provides a weekend canoeing program and some of these high school students go on to become paid assistants there. The Center is also home to a special outdoor recreation series for children with disabilities.

The multi-purpose room of the Ecology Center, with its massive wood-burning fireplace and vaulted, wooden-beamed ceiling is available for rental. The 60 x 30 foot space will accommodate 112 people.

According to Ecology Center Manager Linda Lutz, the master plan developed at the end of 2006 addresses the future planning for facilities. Lutz stated “Now that we have the plan, we can seek out the funds to implement it.” A tree inventory revealed a population of approximately 1,200 trees and feedback from the public indicated that tree labeling was desired. Also to be implemented is increasing the biodiversity and work on the “understory,” the area beneath the trees, which will include planting shrubs and other plants that would naturally grow in such a setting.

This project is currently in the fundraising stage. Lutz is looking forward to getting started on the work. “We have the framework to work from and we can utilize the funds as they come in, since we have a plan,” she stated. For additional information on rentals, classes and programs, visit the website at or call 847-448-8256.


The Skokie Park District - A Good Neighbor
In addition to serving over 60,000 residents in its own village, the Skokie Park District extends some good perks to its neighbors in Evanston as well. A good example is summer pool passes — sold to residents of Evanston at the same rate Skokie residents pay. The two cities have also collaborated on joint ventures such as Pooch Park, a dog park operated together by the City of Evanston and the Skokie Park District. The 2.7-acre area has doggie drinking fountains, an agility area and a small dog/puppy section at its location at 3220 Oakton Street in Skokie. Park hours are from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. Permits can be purchased in Skokie at the Robert Crown Center, Oakton Community Center, Devonshire Cultural Center or Weber Leisure Center. Also, keep an eye out for “Woofstock” each June — a free event for dogs at the park.

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