Edens Lost & Found: Building Sustainable Cities

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A Visit to Eden Place

With Michael Howard
Executive Director, Fuller Park Community Development

den Place is the doorway to the southside of Chicago to nature. In my neighborhood the issues of environmental concerns do not matter to my constituants, so we have used Eden Place as a tool to educate the southside residents about environmental matters.

When I first proposed the idea of a place dedicated to nature here called Eden Place, I had the feeling that for them nature was always someplace else, somewhere outside the city and so we had to retrain the children in our community that nature is everywhere and they can have a piece of the nature that they see in their mind's eye right here in their community.

Michael Howard reads with John, an Eden Place visitor.

Eden Place is very important for the children here because basically for the last 5 to 6 years we've been fighting a battle of getting the information about us as the number one lead poison community in Chicago proper ... so since then we have been using Eden Place as a format to bring children and their parents in to teach them what's in the environment that's detrimental to your children and how to remove that impediment so that your child can perform better in school and just socially, because the lead issues were things that we didn't even understand was in our water, and the playground, empty play lots that the children would play in, the dust they would breathe in, the parents didn't understand that that dirt was contaminated and was causing problems in their children's learning.

o Eden Place is the soap box, you might say, that we stand on to say 'Listen up, we've got to start taking more involvement in environmental issues in our community so our children can grow up and be healthy and strong and can compete in the world economy that we live in today.'

Children arrive for a visit to Eden Place.

Where are we? We're in 43rd Place and Steward right here on the south side of Chicago, adjacent to the railroad tracks that run freight from the West Coast to the East Coast.

This is the site of a former 35-year- old illegal dumpsite. What was here when we found it seven years ago was two stories tall of illegal construction debris. We found pieces of the old elevated platform leaned against the wall. It was very exciting to get friends and neighbors, we borrowed bulldozers, asked friends, borrowed backhoes, took 23 tons of concrete out of here to make this into Eden Place.

I think the words say it straightforward, this was a site that has been lost for 35 years, and we were able to look past that and what we're doing now is sculpting out of this tragedy something that is a thing of beauty, a place of peace and solitude. A lot of the senior citizens, they just like to come and sit and watch the plants grow, they like to watch the children when they're in there learning.

For us, Edens Lost and Found, we fit right into that category because what once was lost is now found and we're just trying to expose it to the world and we're just thankful that good people are there to help us.

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