Help Save North Pond (Outdated Content)

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North Pond Is Disappearing

Designed by Swain Nelson and Olaf Benson in the late 1800’s, North Pond has been a unique and popular feature of Lincoln Park for 130 years. Sadly, its future in the Park is uncertain – without immediate intervention, North Pond as we know it will disappear.

As one of the Park’s only designated natural areas, North Pond holds an important place in the hearts of Chicagoans and is beloved by birders, runners, anglers, families, tourists, and locals alike. Designed as an aesthetic and recreational pond for us humans, the Pond also serves as essential habitat for over 200 migratory and resident bird species. North Pond is home to over a dozen endangered or threatened Illinois birds, amphibians, reptiles, and plants.

Because North Pond is so beautiful, few people realize it is a dying ecosystem and is slowly converting to a wetland. The Lincoln Park Conservancy is committed to saving North Pond. We need you to help us ensure this natural treasure for this generation and generations to come!

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  • Shallow depth: Many people would be surprised to know that the Pond’s maximum water depth is only about 3.5 feet, limiting aquatic habitat and inhibiting temperature regulation.
  • High temperatures: The water in the Pond is too warm in the summer, creating algae blooms that prevent a healthy aquatic habitat.
  • Erosion: The unstable shoreline is slowly falling into the Pond, leading to sediment and pollution accumulation and shallower depths.
  • Nutrient run-off and sedimentation: The Pond is filling up with organic and mineral sediments such as fertilizers, grass clippings, leaf litter, bird poop (yikes!) and tree limbs, to name a few.
  • Canada Geese: The barren, eroding shoreline attracts geese, who in turn contribute to the Pond’s nutrient overload (see above).


Without timely intervention, these factors will eventually kill the Pond as we know it, taking away a beloved human greenspace and destroying valuable urban habitat for many native animal species. But there’s still time! If we work together to #DigDeepForNorthPond, we can save this treasured urban oasis and preserve North Pond not just as part of Lincoln Park’s past, but also its future.

The restoration and long-term stewardship encompasses five key phases:


Complete three studies necessary to develop the final restoration master plan: topographic and boundary study, tree inventory, and detailed pond bottom and sediment analysis. These studies add important data to recently completed studies, including soil analysis, water quality testing, water balance/pond hydrology analysis, and initial depth and sediment studies. We will host several public meetings to collect and build on community input provided during earlier meetings, which will be integrated into the final restoration master plan expected to be completed in Fall 2020. Come back to this page often to see results of this first, exciting phase.


Deepen portions of the Pond to at least 8’ to increase water circulation and oxygen turnover, decrease water temperature, improve aquatic habitat, and reduce algae growth. Special care will be taken during the dredge to ensure the minimal amount of disruption to resident animal and plant species and the general public. Due to concentration of heavy metals found in recent testing, sediment may potentially be relocated to a sanitation facility, if not reusable onsite. The extensive design work, equipment mobilization, and sediment hauling and disposal costs all contribute to making the dredge the most significant project cost. All subsequent steps are dependent on dredge completion.


Grade and stabilize the pond edge to decrease erosion and pollution run-off into the pond while providing additional public gathering and engagement opportunities around the shoreline. Areas of gradual slope will be planted with a variety of submergent and emergent native vegetation to stabilize the pond bank, whereas areas of steeper slope will be stabilized with natural limestone outcroppings interspersed with native plantings and public gathering areas.


Increase the amount and quality of natural areas surrounding the pond to foster greater habitat and species diversity, model natural infrastructure techniques, and provide public engagement/education opportunities with urban nature. Plans include doubling the size of the West Prairie (completed 2019), planting hundreds of native trees (plantings ongoing, with phase one completed Fall 2019 and Spring 2020), and installing a sedge meadow on the Pond’s north end to capture and filter stormwater from adjacent parkland. This last component provides an additional water source to the Pond to reduce or eliminate its reliance on municipal water. 


North Pond’s restoration is directly dependent on community support and involvement, with 100% of project funding coming from private donors and foundations. Without support from the community, North Pond’s restoration will not be possible. Community investment will also be vital to the Pond’s long-term stewardship and care. Our restoration efforts are focused on developing consistent, long-term community commitments to North Pond through volunteer stewardship, public awareness, and educational programs. Learn more about how you can get involved below or donate/start your own crowdfunding page for the project here.

Project Timeline (Draft, subject to change)

Knowledge Phase

Completed Portions

  • Topographic: (April 2020) Land and soil components that affect draining and overall site construction.
  • Tree Survey: (April 2020) Type and condition of all trees at North Pond to identify areas for additional planting and selected removal to benefit Pond and restoration.
  • Bathymetric Survey: (April 2020) – Water flow and characteristic in and out of Pond.
  • Sediment Sampling, Testing, and Analysis: (May 2020) Conditions of surrounding soil and pond bottom to inform dredge depth/design, and opportunities for sediment re-use/disposal.

Upcoming Portions

  • Dredge Opportunities and Constraints: (June 30) Identify main opportunities and challenges related to dredge/restoration.
  • Concept Dredge Design: (July 30) Optimized dredge and restoration plan.
  • 30% Construction Drawings: (August 31) Plan developed to 30% ready for construction.
  • Produce Concept Master Plan Draft: (September 30) Narrative, visuals; online, print.
  • Final Public Meetings: (October – November) Solicit public engagement and feedback.
  • Publish Final Concept Master Plan: (November) Final plan.
  • Prepare 90% Construction drawing: (November 2020 – March 2021) 
  • Permit Preparation, Submission, and Review: (January 2021 – July 2021)
  • 100% Construction Drawings: (August 2021) Plan developed to 100% ready for construction including all reviews, approvals, permits.
  • Construction Bid Proposals Developed, Released, and Selected: (September – October 2021) 
  • Begin Dredge: (October 2021)  Mobilization and construction begins.

Later phases (tentative):

2021 – Begin and complete dredge; begin edge stabilization and plantings; begin study and initial sedge meadow site work; continue engagement/fundraising campaign; continue family/community engagement programs.

2022 – Continue and complete edge work and plantings; sedge meadow installation and planting; construction of public engagement spaces; continue engagement/fundraising campaign; continue family/community engagement programs focusing on pond’s long-term stewardship and care.

2023 – Complete sedge meadow and other plantings; celebrate project completion!

PHASE 1 – Pond and Edge

Demolition and Site Prep/Restoration – $950,000
Infrastructure/Utilities – $300,000
Dredge – $3,300,000
Native Plants/Trees – $551,438
Surveys and Studies – $224,000 (2020 Minimum Goal)
Design and Development – 393,382
Permitting and Construction Administration – $377,955
Mobilization – $510,143
Contingency – $510,143

Phase 1 Total                                                    $7,117,061


Surrounding Trails and Features                       TBD
Long-term Stewardship/Management            TBD


A variety of files on the Campaign for North Pond are available for download and printing for personal use or to help spread the word about the Campaign!

Current Status Update – June 30, 2020

The North Pond restoration is currently in the Knowledge Phase. The Conservancy and its consultants are finishing final studies this spring. Once completed, our consulting team (in conjunction with the Conservancy and Chicago Park District) will compile a report on opportunities and constraints for the dredge based on the studies and site conditions.

From here a concept plan for the dredge will be compiled for input and approval by the Conservancy and Park District. This plan will also be shared with the public later this summer. Once approved a 30% construction drawing set will be developed.

The final Master Plan draft will be based on these plans and provided for public comment during the Fall 2020.

Based on public input and feedback from the Conservancy and Park District, 100% construction drawings, permit applications, and project budgets will be finalized for submission and approval.

The Knowledge phase will be completed once all designs and permits are approved and ready for construction, anticipated by mid-2021.

This will kickoff the Dredge component which will begin with contractor bidding and selection during late Summer 2021 and dredging beginning Fall 2021.   

Check back later this summer to see prospective plans for the dredge and related restoration and offer your feedback.

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We want your feedback on North Pond’s restoration! We will be sharing project updates and eventually a draft Master Plan with the public. Whether offering ideas of what trees you’d like to see around the Sanctuary, which native fish you would love to have in the Pond, or a concern about the project plan, we would love to hear from you! Fill out the form below and a Conservancy staff member will respond to your communication.

1 Step 1
North Pond Input Survey
Thank you in advance for helping guide the restoration of this neighborhood treasure!
NameYour full name
What is your connection to the Pond?You may select more than one
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What part of the North Pond restoration is most important to you?Pick one
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What is your biggest issue or concern about the North Pond restoration project?Please select up to two
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What additions or changes would you most like to see as a part of the North Pond restoration?Please select up to two
OtherIf you selected other, please describe here
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How would you like to support the North Pond restoration?You may select more than one
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I would like to provide input on the North Pond restoration project by:You may select more than one
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Do you have other questions, issues, or comments about the project?
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If you would like someone to contact you about the North Pond restoration project, please provide your preferred contact method and information below.

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Explore and learn more about North Pond through project data, videos, concept plans, and activities that connect learners of all ages to the this urban nature sanctuary.


Hands-on Family Activities

Soil Sampling – Looking more closely at what’s beneath our feet: Open/Download PDF

Cupcake Geology – Seeing through the Earth’s surface with some delectable treats: Open/Download PDF

Topographic Mapping – Learning the shape of the land: Open/Download PDF

Bark Rubbing – Identifying trees: Open/Download PDF

Project Updates – coming soon

 Dive Deeper into North Pond’s Restoration – coming soon

North Pond Restoration Overview

Meet the Experts

Meet the Project Team video


North Pond Needs You!

The Pledge/How Can I Help?

  • Contribute: We’re more than halfway to our goal for the project budget, but North Pond’s restoration will not happen without your help! Public funding is not available, making community support critical to the project’s success. Community funding also ensures that the gains achieved by the restoration are maintained through regular stewardship of the Pond. You can donate and/or start your own crowdfunding page for the project here.
  • Volunteer: Let’s come together to take care of what we restore! We rely on our dedicated volunteer gardeners and corporate volunteer groups to maintain the Pond’s ecosystems. Join us in preserving one of Lincoln Park’s only dedicated natural areas.
  • Host a Meeting: Host a virtual meeting with friends, neighbors, or your community group to learn more about the restoration. The more awareness we can build around the project, the better! We need the entire community to #DigDeepForNorthPond. Contact Executive Director Doug Widener for more information about hosting a meeting.
  • Learn More: Follow the project’s progress on our social media: FB @chicagolincolnpark and Instagram @lpconservancy. Contact Executive Director Doug Widener to set up a 1-on-1 meeting to learn more about the project and how you can help North Pond.

Thank you to our generous donors for  helping us help North Pond and all of Lincoln Park!

North Pond Stories
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