Stories by Patty Wetli

State Kicks in $2M to Transform South Side Brownfield Into Hub for Green Innovation

A $2 million investment from the state pushed funding for an urban farming campus over the top, paving the way for Friday’s groundbreaking. (Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity / Twitter)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced $2 million in state funds for the Green Era Urban Farming Campus, pushing financing for the project over the top and paving the way for Friday’s groundbreaking in Auburn Gresham.  

This Virtual Walking Tour of Printers Row Has a Twist: An Old School Printing Demo

Printers Row history will spring to life during virtual walking tours featuring a live printing demo. (Payton Chung / Flickr)

Brick of Chicago’s virtual tours of Printers Row, set for Saturday and Sunday, will bring the history of printing to life with a demonstration from Starshaped Press.

$10M Chicago Prize Awarded to Auburn Gresham Team to Build Health Hub, Urban Farm

A pair of ambitious projects are coming to Auburn Gresham, thanks to a $10 million grant from the Chicago Prize. (Pritzker Traubert Foundation / YouTube)

The inaugural $10 million Chicago Prize grant was awarded to a team from Auburn Gresham, who have ambitious plans to bring transformational change to the community.

Meet the Chicago Woman Who Spent 800 Hours Swimming With Sharks, Without Leaving Home

The Global FinPrint project is the first-ever worldwide survey of reef sharks. (Global FinPrint / Facebook)

Shedd Aquarium volunteer Betty Goldberg took citizen science to the next level, contributing a massive number of hours to a global survey of reef sharks. 

Open House Chicago Is Still Happening In October. Here’s What Will Be Different

Open House Chicago will be slight less, well, open, in 2020, but still plenty of spectacular architecture on view. (Chicago Architecture Center / Facebook)

The Chicago Architecture Center’s popular event, now in its 10th year, will stick to the outdoors and offer online programming, with a focus on Chicago’s South and West sides.

City Likely to Give General Iron OK to Restart Shredding Within Days. ‘Unconscionable,’ Alderman Says

(WTTW News)

Following a May explosion, General Iron has put appropriate controls in place to resume its metal shredding operation, experts say. Neighbors say they have little faith in the company’s commitment to compliance.

TreeKeepers Course Set to Start Training New Class of Stewards. Sign Up ASAP

TreeKeepers are active in their communities, organizing tree plantings, adopting trees and maintaining parks. (Openlands / Facebook)

The conservation group Openlands started the program in 1991 and has since certified 2,000 TreeKeepers, who play an important role in conserving, protecting and advocating for the Chicago region’s trees. 

Visitors to Cook County Suburbs from COVID-19 Hot Spots to Quarantine for 2 Weeks

(Pixabay / Tookapic)

Anyone entering suburban Cook County from a designated COVID-19 hot spot — including travelers and returning residents — will have to quarantine for 14 days. The list includes 22 states, and could grow more.

Chicago Jumps on Bandwagon to Help Save North America’s Birds

Yellow warblers are among the birds that have been banded for future identification at a new Chicago station. (Silver Leapers / Flickr)

North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds in the last 50 years. A new bird banding station at Big Marsh Park is part of a massive effort to figure out ways to help our feathered friends. 

Virtual Film Screening, Discussion Focuses on ‘Outdoors While Black’

Faith E. Briggs, in a scene from “This Land,” part of a virtual screening event. (YouTube)

The organization Environmentalists of Color is teaming up with the One Earth Film Fest to screen a pair of films focusing on the theme of “Outdoors While Black: Unpacking History, Reframing Safety & Taking Action.”

Forget Catch of the Day. This Bass Is the Catch of the Year, and Here’s Why

What’s so special about this fish? It’s all about the little yellow tag. (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District)

A largemouth bass fished from the Skokie River provided proof of the success of a 2018 dam removal on the Chicago River.

Proud of Your Garden? Enter This 60-Second Video Challenge

“Pete’s Pollinator Place,” a 2019 garden award winner. (Chicago Excellence in Gardening Awards / Peter Gizyn)

The Chicago Excellence in Gardening Awards has shifted to a video format for 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Submissions are open through Sept. 30, so get those cameras rolling.

The Greatest of the Great Lakes Has a Twitter Account With a Superiority Complex

(Jolene / Flickr; inset: Twitter / @lakesuperior)

The “greatest lake of all time” has a Twitter account to match its swagger, run by a human who speaks not on behalf of the lake but as the lake in a brash, anthropomorphic way. And we can’t get enough of it.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime or Quarter? US Mint Asks People to Get Coins Back in Circulation

(Jason Rogers / Flickr)

Whether piled up in change jars, cup holders or couch crevices, coins are not circulating, and that makes it difficult for businesses to deal in cash, the U.S. Coin Task Force says. Here’s how to help.

Lookingglass’ World Premiere Short Film ‘Sunset 1919’ Commemorates 1919 Race Riots

A scene from “Sunset 1919.” (Lookingglass Theatre / Kareem Bandealy)

The short film written and produced by Lookingglass Theatre’s J. Nicole Brooks premieres Monday to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the start of 1919 Chicago race riots.

General Iron Town Hall: City Says It Will Safeguard Health of East Side Residents But Neighbors Not Appeased

General Iron’s Lincoln Park facility. (WTTW News)

The city outlined a laundry list of rules General Iron would have to abide by in order to start up its metal shredding operation on the Southeast Side, while neighbors continue to push officials to deny the company's permit application — which has yet to be filed.

Looking to Volunteer? ‘Pitch in for the Parks’ to Help Keep Them Clean

(Chicago Parks Foundation / Facebook)

The Chicago Parks Foundation has created a citywide volunteer program to help keep the parks clean.

Chicago’s Annual Chicken Coop Tour Is Still on for 2020. It Just Needs Host Sites

The Windy City Coop Tour showcases Chicagoans’ backyard chickens. (Chicagoland Chicken Enthusiasts / Facebook)

Organizers are moving forward with the outdoor event, which showcases urban livestock and agriculture in its many forms. Prospective hosts have until July 26 to apply to be part of the September 2020 tour, no chickens required.

Report: Streets & Sanitation Inefficient in Clearing Weeds from Vacant Lots

The Office of Inspector General has released a report on Streets & San's weed-cutting performance. (Bart Everson / Flickr)

An audit by the Inspector General’s Office found numerous flaws in the Department of Streets and Sanitation’s system of clearing weeds from vacant lots, including the lack of an up-to-date list of city-owned vacant property.

Park District Board Says of Douglas Park Name Change: ‘It Will Be Done’

Someone took matters into their own hands and unofficially changed the name of Douglas Park on signage earlier in 2020. (WTTW News)

Students leading the movement to change the name of Douglas Park said they were frustrated to have been left out of the board’s meeting Wednesday, and for their broader campaign to have been ignored. 

Who Speaks for Chicago’s Trees? Aldermen to Propose New Urban Forest Advisory Board

A proposed Urban Forestry Advisory Board would take a more strategic look at one of the city’s unsung resources — its trees. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

It’s time to be strategic, rather than reactive, when it comes to managing a vital piece of Chicago’s infrastructure — it’s trees. 

Officials Say No ‘Backroom’ Deal for General Iron, But a ‘Clear Path’ to Reopen

General Iron's Lincoln Park facility. (WTTW News)

Opponents of the Lincoln Park metal shredder want General Iron closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but if the facility checks all the right boxes, it could eventually restart operations, officials said. 

Movement to Rename Douglas(s) Park Gets a Second Wind, Campaign Relaunches Saturday

Someone took matters into their own hands and unofficially changed the name of Douglas Park on signage earlier in 2020. (WTTW News)

The movement to rename Douglas Park after Frederick Douglass had hit a bureaucratic brick wall. Recent shifts in the political and social landscape encouraged activists to keep forging ahead with their campaign, which relaunches Saturday.

EPA Soil Test Reveals Manganese at Hegewisch Baseball Diamond

According to preliminary findings from the EPA, manganese has been found in the soil at Hegewisch Babe Ruth Field. (Hegewisch Babe Ruth / Facebook)

After finding arsenic and lead in the soil at the Hegewisch Little League Field, the EPA tested a second a ball diamond in the neighborhood and found manganese. “We fight for every breath we take here,” said one resident.

OK to Use Air Conditioners During Pandemic, City’s Top Doc Says

(Zoltan Matuska / Pixabay)

With temperatures set to soar in Chicago in the coming days, Dr. Allison Arwady reassured residents that it’s “safe and appropriate” to use air conditioning in their apartments and homes without risking the spread of COVID-19.