Garden sprouts from one-time dump site

May 14, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The spot was once so bad that it made an expert's list of the most hazardous places to live in the city. Now it's a green sanctuary in the middle of urban Chicago. And its name says it all- Eden Place.

"It's a doorway to nature for residents of the Southside of Chicago…environmental learning center," said Michael Howard, Fuller Park Community Development Corporation.

The beautiful patch of nature near 43rd and Princeton used to be a dump. A wasteland for industrial debris and because it sits between the Dan Ryan and railroad tracks, it was especially toxic.

"This community of Fuller Park was the most lead poisoned community in Chicago…their environment," said Howard.

In 2002, Howard and his organization joined members of this community in a major effort to clean the place up. Fortunately most of the solid debris could be simply hauled away. It was then covered with dirt from a farm in South Holland. But the youngsters who learn there are from right next door. In the heart of the city, Hendricks Academy students feel like they are out on the farm communing with nature and learning about all kinds of environmental issues.

It's all a stimulating adventure for these city kids, and that's surprised even them.

"When I first come here I thought it was just grass," said Naomi Monroe, 8th grader.

"We plant flowers and different," said Lakriah McCarter, 8th grader. The community apparently thinks it's kind of cool too. Eden place is not only a source of enrichment in Fuller Park; it's also a source of pride.

Howard runs eight programs at Eden Place Nature Center,

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