Kilbourn Park greenhouse to receive major improvements


As work on a new playlot at Kilbourn Park is being completed, it was announced that the park’s approximately 80-year-old greenhouse will receive major improvements.

Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th) recently notified the Friends of the Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse that a $300,000 improvement project for the greenhouse could start as early as next spring at the park, 3501 N. Kilbourn Ave. It includes replacing the fiberglass panels on the sides and on the roof of the greenhouse with a clearer polycarbonate plastic.

Friends executive board member Libby Reed said that the new panels will allow for additional plantings and programming in the greenhouse. “The park district has taken notice of the value of what we are doing here,” Reed said. “The panels now block about 70 to 80 percent of the light that wants to get through. For a greenhouse to be effective, you have to have light.”

The project is being paid for with tax increment financing funds. Plans are being made so that the construction does not interfere with an annual plant sale at the park in May, Chicago Park District spokeswoman Judy Molloy said.

While both Garfield Park and Lincoln Park have conservatories, Kilbourn Park is the only neighborhood park in the city with a greenhouse. The Chicago Park District’s other greenhouse at Marquette Park on the South Side closed about 25 years ago.

Reed said that a goal of the park group is to provide educational programming that encourages children to eat healthy. Classes for both children and adults are held at the greenhouse, there is an annual harvest festival at the park, and in the winter the park district stores tropical plants at the greenhouse, she said.

Meanwhile, volunteers gathered at the park on Nov. 27 to spread new Fibar chips, which look like traditional woodchips which but are softer, on the playground. Construction of a new playground began on Nov. 9 and is expected to be completed later this month.

Kilbourn Park is one of about 50 parks which are getting new playlot equipment this year as part of the park district’s “Chicago Plays” program, which is intended for parks with Fibar chips. The program is expected to fund new equipment at about 300 parks over the next 5 years.

Friends of Kilbourn Park president Bill Harmon said that the group worked with Reboyras to get more than 200 signatures on a petition that urged the park district to build a new playground at the park. The playlot features two activity centers, a zip-line, four slides, six swings and a seesaw, Harmon said.

The park opened in the late 1920s with a fieldhouse, a greenhouse, a maintenance building, athletic fields, a running track, an 18-hole putting green, tennis courts and a horseshoe pit, according to the park district. The greenhouse was used to propagate plants for parks throughout the city.

The park district planted a large perennial garden in the park in the late 1930s, and while the original garden is gone, a renewed interest in gardening later inspired the creation of a volunteer program at the greenhouse.

Photos taken by Lisa DiChiera, Landmarks Illinois

Volunteers gathered at Kilbourn Park, 3501 N. Kilbourn Ave., on Nov. 27 to spread new Fibar chips on the new playlot at the park.

Construction of a new playground at the park began on Nov. 9, and the work is expected to be completed later this month.