Clark Park

Foliage in Clark Park, Chicago / Darker than Green

I’ve started taking the California bus in the mornings, which has dramatically improved my commute time as well as my morning mental wellbeing. The bus is rarely crowded, the drivers are always at ease, and I’m able to completely avoid the traffic madness on Western Ave.

On one of last week’s bus rides, I noticed a Chicago Park District sign at a clearing in a dense mass of woodland trees. Turns out, everyday I’ve been riding past a park that I didn’t even know existed. Just by slightly shuffling my morning routine, I happened across a new green spot in my city to explore. So this weekend, this long last weekend in May, we took a trip to explore this new park. We hopped on the California bus, got off at the second to last stop, wandered through the clearing in the trees and right into Clark Park.

Chicago River in Clark Park / Darker than Green

The park is nestled between Belmont on the South, Addison on the North, Lane Tech high school on the East, and the Chicago River on the West. There are a few different zones, each catering to a slightly different slice of the North Center neighborhood constituency. The bike baths, hidden by tall trees and thick foliage, feature jumps and ramps for the budding X Games hopeful. The long paved sidewalk snakes along the river, providing glimpses of the glittering gray water from above and between clumps of leafy green. A wide open grassy field just south of Addison allows for solo yoga stretching, duos of footballers, and packs of picnickers.

Clark Park / Darker than Green

In the middle of the park rises a dark gray angular structure, sided with smooth slate and perforated with giant river-facing windows. This is the WMS Boathouse, a year-round training facility for rowers and storage space for many of the kayaks you see floating down the river from May to October. When we wandered by, we saw a small handful of bright eyed weekenders outfitted with neon life vests, tugging their boats down the dock and into the water. A beautiful and serene spot to launch an afternoon’s paddle.

WMS Boathouse in Clark Park / Darker than Green

We wandered for a while through dappled light and wide open sun, listening to the whir of bike gears from deep within the brush. Plans were built to return later in the summer for a double kayak trip followed by a picnic on the field. An errand in nearby Roscoe Village pulled us east, where we passed a lush prairie, a symbol of what all the land in Chicago once looked like. The tall reeds and grasses bent in the breeze. Native leaves and stems soaked up hot midday sun, growing longer and greener with each passing day.

Clark Park is located in the North Center neighborhood. It’s easily accessible by CTA bus, both the #152 Addison and the #52 California pass right by. Rowing lessons are run through the Chicago Rowing Foundation and kayak rentals can be arranged through Chicago River Canoe and Kayak.

Midwest prairie, Chicago IL / Darker than Green

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