Horner Park: A Chicago Neighborhood for Nature Lovers
Some Chicago neighborhoods are defined by their nightlife, their food, or their art scene. Some, like Horner Park, are anchored by their wide-open space. The neighborhood, a small pocket contained within North Center, is roughly bounded by Montrose Avenue, California Avenue, Western Avenue, and Irving Park Road.
Nearly half of the community is occupied by its namesake park, which stretches down California Avenue all the way from Montrose Avenue to Irving Park Road. Also, the Chicago River cuts right through the neighborhood, serving as the eastern border of the park. It's this greenspace that beckons Horner Park residents to step outside and enjoy their neighborhood.
Horner Park covers 55 acres, and this extensive space includes two football and soccer fields, nine softball fields, four basketball courts, five tennis courts, picnic areas, and a playground. A path winds around the park, offering a scenic outlet for runners and walkers. The park also has an indoor woodworking shop. Horner Park regularly hosts community events, and some past events include a pumpkin patch, a Turkey Trot, Santa’s workshop, and movies and music during the summer.
The park continues to engage the community with new amenities, like a large, fenced-in dog park. The first phase of the park was officially completed in November 2018. Work on Phase II began in late 2020 and is now complete, providing a paved entryway, a water fountain, a water feature, a small dog area, and benches. Fundraising for Phase III is currently underway with the goal of including artificial turf playfields and further landscaping features.
In addition to Horner Park, the community has stepped up to maintain Riverbank Neighbors Park, a quarter-mile stretch of the Chicago River. Started in 1994, Riverbank Neighbors invites people to help maintain this natural area.
The Neighborhood Association
Horner Park Neighbors has been dedicated to bettering the neighborhood since 1988. The organization holds regular meetings (on the second Wednesday of every month) at the Horner Park Fieldhouse. According to the Horner Park Neighbors website, they work directly with the alderman’s office and police department to answer any questions residents may have.
The neighborhood association also hosts a number of outdoor events throughout the year. From June 5 to Oct. 2, residents can come to the park to browse the Saturday morning farmers market. Horner Park Neighbors also puts together an annual block party for the community. The 2021 block party, scheduled for Sep. 18, will give residents a chance to enjoy the fleeting warm weather with food, games, and entertainment.
With regular clean-up events, Horner Park Neighbors also encourages people to be a part of keeping their community clean. People can gather together to beautify their own streets and get to know their neighbors.
The Chicago River runs north and south through the city, serving as a central feature of the neighborhood. Horner Park is one of the quieter, more residential riverside neighborhoods, especially compared to enclaves like Bucktown and the South Loop. In addition to offering coveted waterfront property, the river also draws the community together with events.
In 2018, Horner Park hosted Riverfest, honoring Native American culture. During Riverfest, people took canoe paddling lessons and listened to live music. Plus, the American Indian Center hosted a scavenger hunt to help teach people about the plants growing along the river.
Also, the American Indian Center recently raised the funds to complete an art installation, designed by artist Santiago X, in Horner Park. The artist is creating an effigy mound that will resemble a coiled snake, and once completed, will join the finished Serpent Twin in Schiller Park, according to the Chicago Tribune. The entire project will create two mounds and the Northwest Portage Walking Museum.
“As far as this earthworks project,” Santiago X told the Chicago Tribune, “it’s an opportunity for our communities to build some beauty and to create some spaces that celebrate a coming together to create more equity; to elevate the voice of the ancestral peoples, the presence of Indigenous peoples together—because we’re not doing it alone. People outside of our community are a big part of this, big stakeholders in creating this reality in making our visions and hopes for prosperity tangible. I think the beauty begins with contemplative place-making like this.”