Archive | June, 2014

June 28: Community Stewardship Workday

23 Jun

The showy season has begun! Prickly pear cactus has started its first blooms, along with butterfly weed, and purple prairie clover. We will take a nature walk to see all the action around the site. But the window of opportunity to get rid of more cheatgrass has not closed, so we will also work on weeding.

Join us this Saturday June 28 from 10am-12pm.

Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it may be windy and wet, or sunny and dry! Sturdy shoes, long pants and water are recommended. Tools, training, and snacks will be provided. Contact Alison Anastasio at for questions and to RSVP.

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets. By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St. By car, you can only access the park at the southern end.
From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before  the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity. Go to the southeast end of this lot and park. Meet at the entrance to the Nature Area, the which is located at the southern end of the beach (look for the banner!).

*Mark your calendar*
Every Sunday this summer from 12-5 in Rainbow Beach Park at 79th/South Shore — come to the South Shore Farmers Market!

Saturday July 26 – Community Stewardship Workday at RBD
Saturday August 23 – Community Stewardship Workday at RBD
Saturday September 27 – Community Stewardship Workday at RBD



Calumet Quarter students visit Rainbow Beach Dunes

13 Jun


This spring, I taught a course (Topics in Calumet Ecology) for University of Chicago undergrads in the Calumet Quarter — an experiential place-based program in environmental studies (check out the blog of our awesome students here). One of our field trips was to Rainbow Beach Dunes (on a cold day in May) and you can view photos of the trip here.  One of the students wrote a blog post about the history of Rainbow Beach!

The Story Behind Rainbow Beach

Since I was unable to go on the Rainbow Beach Dunes field trip I did some research on the site and did a write up on some of the interesting history of the area. The most incredible thing that I found was the story of the wade-ins that occurred in the summers of 1960 and 1961. The public spaces of Chicago were technically open to anyone at that time, but Rainbow Beach on Lake Michigan was effectively a white-only beach. On August 28, 1960 Velma Murphy Hill decided to change that. She led a small group of activists to the beach, and attempted to have a relaxing outing. However, it was uncomfortable for all of the brave activists, as many of the typical patrons of the beach stared, made comments or left. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. When they decided to leave the beach, a huge group of men and women hemmed the activists in and began to shout at them. As the waders continued walking to leave, the mob began to throw stones as well as screaming, and Velma Murphy Hill was hit in the head with one of the larger rocks. She was sent to the hospital and received stitches for the wound, but despite the injury continued to push for the integration of the beach.

As the summer continued, the waders did not give in to the fear or the pressure of the angry masses, heading to the beach every day and enduring the awful treatment at the hands of the other beachgoers. As the movement grew in strength, the NAACP began to provide support, lobbying the City of Chicago to protect the activists, and sending other activists to increase the number of waders. Eventually, the City of Chicago took notice and began to provide the protestors with support as well. The most famous moment of the movement occurred on July 8, 1961. The waders arrived under the protection of 200 police men to keep the mob back as the numbers continued to swell throughout the day. There were 10 arrests made that day alone, and fortunately none of the protestors were injured. The protests continued after that day, but the angry mob began to dwindle. Every day the police and waders arrived at the beach in tandem until the police were no longer necessary.

Throughout this quarter we have been studying how the people in a certain area interact with their environment, but I think that it is also interesting and important to look at how they interact with each other within that environment. Today, Rainbow Beach is a place where Chicagoans of all races can come to relax, and had it not been for the brave efforts of Velma Murphy Hill and her fellow waders, the story may not have been the same.


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