Crystal Garden: Chicago residents are working to save one of the city’s only indoor green spaces

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Celine Wysgalla remembers that when she first stepped into the Crystal Garden when she was 5 years old, her petite body was hidden by the ancient tree towering above her.

For more than two decades, the indoor garden of Chicago’s Navy Pier has been a cherished place away from the hustle and bustle of city life, reminding people that only by immersing in nature can they experience peace and tranquility.

But the beloved tropical garden that has always been free to the public will be replaced by a new paid digital experience.

Wysgalla, 25, just graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she received a master’s degree in environmental health, and she is leading a work to save an acre of indoor gardens.

“The garden provides an opportunity to interact with nature and increase your appreciation of the natural world. Chicago’s Crystal Garden is unique, and it is one of the very few free indoor green spaces that people in this community can use,” Wysgalla told us .

“I know how precious green space is and how rare it is to have such an indoor space in the city, so if the crystal garden is demolished, I will be very sad.”

Wysgalla launched a petition Save the garden on September 16. So far, it has received more than 18,000 signatures. She also opened an Instagram account, dedicated to saving the garden, Hundreds of people Leave a comment to share their memories of Crystal Garden and their hope to protect it.

The Crystal Garden currently has more than 80 towering palm trees and huge monstera plants, as well as other tropical plants, all enclosed in a six-story glass atrium with dancing fountains scattered around.

The new entertainment experience “Illuminarium” will be built in the front garden. Construction will start from the beginning of 2022 to the middle of the year, and the attraction will be open in autumn or winter.

“The cooperation between Navy Pier and Illuminarium will transform the one-acre hardscape crystal garden from an underutilized garden and high-end private event space into a year-round anchor destination suitable for families,”.

The spokesperson added: “The organization has the responsibility to develop attractions that support the maintenance, feasibility, and programmatic products of the Navy Pier.”

Chicago’s Navy Pier, a popular tourist attraction and non-profit organization, Temporarily closed Beginning in September 2020, it will last for more than one year in an effort to “limit the financial burden and impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The main income sources of the terminal, such as the Centennial Ferris Wheel, Children’s Museum, and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, resulted from the loss of income Projected deficit According to the terminal, it lost $20 million this year alone, calling the loss “destructive.”

“In the past 10 days, I have heard stories from people near and far about all their special memories and moments in the garden-weddings, dances, quinceañeras, performances, festivals, engagements, gatherings with family and friends, The list goes on,” Wysgalla said.

“I know that Navy Pier needs to offset the impact of Covid-19, but I think Navy Pier underestimates the importance of the space to Chicagoans and tourists.”

Navy Pier did not respond to updatednews24 request for a response to the petition, but defended the new project, stating that the project has been “comprehensively reviewed” and approved by the Chicago Planning Commission, the Chicago District Appeals Committee and the City Council.

Protect the free experience for low-income residents

Devki Patel, a graduate student at DePaul University and another outspoken activist, asked Navy Pier to reconsider a new venture.

Constantly wandering between school, work, and busy city life, her refuge is the Crystal Garden, where she can “find creativity, relaxation, and connection with nature,” Patel said. She firmly believes that this experience is Unable to copy.

Patel, 26, told: “Given the direction of climate change and the continuing news that it is harmful to the environment, these spaces are the only way we can connect with biodiversity and life.”

“We don’t need more natural virtual experiences. Many museums provide immersive exhibits with the same capacity. There is no reason for such an experience. [“Illuminarium”] It cannot be done in places that do not need to uproot and remove decades-old plants and leaves. ”

More importantly, she added that protecting the Crystal Garden also means protecting a safe haven for Chicago residents who cannot afford to pay for the experience.

“Crystal Garden is one of the last remaining free experiences on Navy Pier. The decision to close this space severely limited the accessibility of one of Chicago’s top attractions,” Patel said.

The garden also cooperates with non-profit organizations and museums to organize educational activities, entertainment and programs for children.

“These events enrich Chicago’s vibrant culture and connect residents and visitors in an unforgettable environment,” she added. “By making space only paid, the city inadvertently restricted the experience of a large number of Chicago residents and this proposed area of ​​Navy Pier.”

Cultivate a relationship with nature

“Illuminarium” will be a 32,000 square foot immersive experience that will project images, sounds and smells to take visitors to another place. WLS Report.
It is understood that the first performance WLS, Will be an experience called “Wild”, which will bring participants to Africa. According to the Illuminarium website, viewers will “face face to face with the world’s strangest animals in their natural habitat” and gaze at Kenya’s night sky.

Patel pointed out that it is ironic to replace the real natural experience with a paid digital experience.

“Losing this space will be a loss of protection, and only those who profit from the capitalization of this space can win,” Patel said. “I assure you that no Chicago residents are willing to conduct virtual hunts at the expense of existing wildlife.”

Caelan Jones is another Chicago native. He spent most of his childhood visiting the Crystal Garden. This was the first time he saw such a huge plant.

Many years later, Jones is now a plant expert, grower and marketer, helping people get in touch with nature through connections with plants.

“I have seen them improve the lives of many people by bringing them some new interests. We must retain all our main channels for people to experience plants in this immersive way,” Jones told. “Learning through books or screens and real-time observation of plants swaying in front of you.”

He added that the Crystal Garden “opened a door” to people’s curiosity about plants and nature as a whole, and is a source of joy and enthusiasm for the Chicago community-which is more valuable than any experience that Navy Pier can provide.

As time goes by, the end of the Crystal Garden gets closer and closer, and the Chicagoans who call this garden a refuge say that they will fight for it to the end.

If you like to travel and want to see other options go to travel news

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