Stories by Patty Wetli

Nearly $9M in TIF Money OK’d to Help Restore Garfield Park to Its ‘True Glory’

Garfield Park's Gold Dome fieldhouse and cultural center. (Google Street View)

Garfield Park is set to receive an infusion of Tax Increment Financing dollars for various projects that will help restore some of the park’s historic features, while reimagining others.

Weekend Washout: Half a Foot of Rain Could Fall by Sunday

(Kaique Rocha / Pexels)

After one of the driest springs on record, the Chicago area is making up for lost precipitation in June. Waves of thunderstorms and torrential rains will roll through the Chicago region this weekend.

Calling All Green Thumbs: Entries Open for Chicago Bungalow Garden Contest

The 2020 winner in the front garden category. (Courtesy of Chicago Bungalow Association)

This year’s contest is sure to be more competitive than ever, with expanded eligibility and the doubling of winners’ cash prizes.

Forest Preserve Property Tax Referendum Likely Headed to Ballots in 2022

Spring Lake Forest Preserve, Cook County. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

How much is nature worth? The Forest Preserve District of Cook County is about to find out. The district’s board of commissioners has thrown its support behind a proposal for a ballot referendum that would put a property tax increase for the preserves directly in the hands of voters.

Second Father’s Day Tornado Confirmed in Suburbs as Cleanup Continues

A tornado downed trees and damaged homes in suburban Woodridge late Sunday, June 20, 2021. A second tornado hit Plainfield, according to officials. (WTTW News)

An EF0 tornado, with maximum winds of 85 mph, touched down in Plainfield late Sunday, carving a 3.2-mile path to southwest Romeoville before dissipating near the Mistwood Golf Club, according to the National Weather Service.

Father’s Day Tornado Was a Severe EF3, Winds Up to 165 mph: National Weather Service

Cleanup efforts are underway Monday, June 21, 2021 in suburban Woodridge following a tornado and severe storms Sunday night. (WTTW News)

After conducting a preliminary survey of Sunday’s tornado site in the western suburbs, the National Weather Service said it has determined the twister was an EF3, the strongest to touch down in the Chicago metropolitan area since 2015.

Nature Museum Invites Visitors to ‘Wonder With Us Again,’ Sets Reopening for July

The Nature Museum will reopen July 8. (Courtesy of Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum / Facebook)

Though many Chicagoans found refuge in nature during the pandemic, the physical Nature Museum in Lincoln Park has been shuttered since spring 2020. 

Tornado Rips Through Chicago Suburbs, Injuring at Least 5 and Destroying Homes

A strong line of storms and at least one tornado ripped through the Chicago suburbs Sunday, June 20, 2021. (Courtesy of Ruth Day / @glasshill)

More than 1 million people were under a tornado warning late Sunday as a line of storms ripped through the Chicago area. At least one tornado touched down and left in its wake a path of destruction through Naperville, Woodridge and Darien, according to the National Weather Service.

Juneteenth Celebrations Set for Parks, Forest Preserves

"Demand Justice" sculpture in Grant Park. Artist Maxwell Emcays will talk about his inspiration and Juneteenth, June 19, 2021. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Green spaces across the Chicago area will serve as the backdrop for a number of Juneteenth celebrations this weekend, from live music and dance to discussions about the new federal holiday.

Adler Planetarium Eyeing 2022 for Full Reopening, Some Popular Programs Will Return Sooner

(Adler Planetarium / Facebook)

A return to pre-pandemic business as usual is not yet in the stars for the Chicago cultural institution, though some screenings and public observing events will make an in-person comeback beginning July 3.

UIC, Kennedy-King Among Chicago Institutions Celebrating Windfall Donations From MacKenzie Scott

University of Illinois at Chicago received $40 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. (University of Illinois Chicago / Facebook photo)

The philanthropist announced $2.7 billion in donations Tuesday to 268 organizations, including a number of Chicago-area institutions. The University of Illinois at Chicago received $40 million, the largest gift from an individual in school history.

House Music Heading Back to ‘Hoods Where It All Began, As City Announces New Summer Series

House music is returning to its neighborhood roots in 2021. (Courtesy of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events)

As part of the city’s reopening celebrations, a nine-part House City series is bringing free events to the Chicago neighborhoods where house music got its start. 

Taste of Chicago is Kinda-Sorta Returning With Pop-ups

Pop-up food and music events will replace Taste of Chicago in 2021. (Courtesy of Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events)

A “reimagined” series of pop-up food and music events will take place across the city in July, including a one-day reuniting of Taste of Chicago stalwarts, Eli’s Cheesecake and Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs.

June is Off to a Scorching Start, With Record-Setting Heat


Rockford’s weather station recorded a record-setting number of days reaching temperatures of 90 degrees or above in early June. Chicago’s average temperature for the month is more than 8 degrees above normal. 

Chicago Jumps to Fifth in Annual Ranking of US Park Systems, With Equity Added to Metrics

Ping Tom Park, exemplifying Chicago’s motto of “City in a Garden.” (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Chicago gets high marks for access, with 98% of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park versus the national average of 55%.

Mount Recyclemore Sends a Message to G-7 Leaders About the Towering Problem of Electronic Waste

Mount Recyclemore G-7 leaders: Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Yoshihide Suga of Japan, Emmanuel Macron of France, Mario Draghi of Italy, Justin Trudeau of Canada, Angela Merkel of Germany and Joe Biden of the U.S. (Courtesy of musicMagpie)

The towering sculpture, constructed near the site of this weekend’s G-7 summit, sounds the alarm about the growing problem of electronic waste.

Buying Native Plants? Brush Up on Your Latin and Watch Out for ‘Nativars’

Nine species of echinacea are native to the U.S. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

There are natives and then there are plants known as “nativars,” and wildlife can tell the difference.

Monty and Rose Continue to Amaze. The Piping Plovers Are Expecting Again

Monty & Rose are pinning their hopes on an egg laid in their second nest attempt. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Just a week after losing their first nest to a skunk attack, Monty and Rose have produced a second nest and laid one egg, the Chicago Park District announced. 

Missed Thursday Morning’s Solar Eclipse? You Weren’t Alone

Partial solar eclipse, June 10, 2021. (Bill Ingalls / NASA)

Chicagoans’ view of Thursday morning’s “ring of fire” solar eclipse was over before most people were awake.

Night at the Museums: Field, Shedd & Others to Stay Open Late Friday as Chicago Reopens Fully

Shedd Aquarium’s Wild Reef shark habitat exhibit. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

To coincide with the reopening of Chicago, a number of museums will stay open late on Friday for an after-hours experience.

Blocking Neighbors From Douglass Park for Riot Fest a ‘Slap in the Face,’ Some Say

Riot Fest is set to return to Douglass Park in September. (Riot Fest / Facebook)

Where some see the return of Riot Fest as a step in the right direction for Chicago’s reopening, others say closing their neighborhood green space for a “riot for rich people” is a “slap in the face” to communities traumatized by COVID-19.

Urban Forestry Advisory Board Wins Key Committee OK, Headed for Full City Council Vote

The thousands of trees damaged during 2020's powerful derecho storm demonstrated the vulnerability of Chicago's tree canopy. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

“Trees need care like streets need repairing,” said Malcolm Whiteside, deputy commissioner for Chicago’s Department of Forestry, who threw his support behind the creation of an Urban Forestry Advisory Board.

Night Out in the Parks Makes Splashy Return in 2021 With Hundreds of Events

Night Out's kid-friendly programs include Kerfuffle’s “Goose and Gert," pictured. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

More than 450 free programs are scheduled this summer at parks as a way for Chicagoans to reconnect with the city's arts and culture offerings in their own communities.

Illinois Is a Natural Beauty in New Exhibit ‘Picturing the Prairie’

Artist Philip Juras painting at Somme Prairie Grove in Cook County. (Credit Robin Carlson)

Artist Philip Juras spent more than five years visiting prairie remnants in Illinois, capturing the beauty of the state’s signature landscape past and present. An exhibit of his paintings is now on view at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Monty and Rose Lose Eggs to Skunk Attack

Monty and Rose lost their 2021 clutch of eggs to a skunk. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

The latest chapter in the saga of Chicago’s beloved plovers, Monty and Rose, is a sad one, with wildlife officials reporting the couple’s 2021 clutch of eggs has been lost to a skunk attack. Plover monitors are hopeful the couple will build a second nest. 

FDA Warns People to Just Say No to Eating Cicadas if You Have a Seafood Allergy

Periodical cicadas are identifiable by their red eyes. (Dan Keck / Pixabay)

Spicy popcorn cicadas, anyone? Not so fast, the Food and Drug Administration warns, if you have a shellfish allergy. The insects are related to shrimp and lobster.