Stories by Patty Wetli

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.

Newly Discovered Comet NEOWISE is Streaking Across the Sky and Giving Us Life

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows greater detail in the twin tails of comet NEOWISE, as seen on July 5, 2020. The lower, broader tail is the comet’s dust tail, while the thinner, upper tail is the comet’s ion tail. (NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Naval Research Lab / Parker Solar Probe /Guillermo Stenborg)

The comet has been delighting sky gazers across the globe. Catch it now, because it won’t swing back our way for another 6,800 years.

Former Meatpacking Plant to Host Vegan Farmers Market

The Plant used to be Peer Foods, a meat processing facility. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen has found a new home for its farmers market — Vegan Paradise — at Bubbly Dynamics’ The Plant, a former meat processing facility in Back of the Yards.  

Plover Chicks Have Names: Introducing Hazel, Esperanza and Nish

 piping plover on Waukegan Beach in 2018. (Ethan Ellis / Flickr)

More than 500 names were submitted for the chicks, which hatched in June, and the selected monikers reflect the history and spirit of Chicago.

Who’s Got the Best Garden in Chicago’s Bungalow Belt? You Be the Judge

2019 front garden runner-up. (Chicago Bungalow Association)

Voting is open through Wednesday for the annual Chicago Bungalow Association’s garden contest.

Have You ‘Herd?’ It’s National Bison Month. Here’s Where They Roam, Close to Home

Bison at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. (USDA Forest Service)

July is National Bison Month — who knew? Here’s where you can catch buffalo roaming, close to home, in Illinois and Indiana.

‘Green Lady’ Rises From the Ashes in Jackson Park as the Latest Chicago Tree Sculpture

"Green Lady" in Jackson Park is the latest sculpture to breathe new life into one of Chicago's dead ash trees. (Chicago Sculpture International)

Since 2014, the Chicago Tree Project has commissioned more than two dozen sculptures across the city, bringing new life to dead ash trees. The latest is a work by artist Gary Keenan.

EPA: Hegewisch Little League Field Contaminated with Lead, Arsenic

Lead and arsenic were discovered in the soil beneath the Hegewisch Little League field. (Google Streetview photo)

The EPA began cleaning up the site this week, stating the hazardous substances found in the soil posed an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to “public health, welfare, and the environment.”

#BlackBotanistsWeek Honors Field Museum Scientist Who Died from COVID-19

Chicagoan Lynika Strozier was honored by her peers during #BlackBotanistsWeek. (Field Museum / Corrie Moreau)

Following social media campaigns like #BlackBirdersWeek and #BlackHikerWeek, a group of Black plant scientists from around the world is creating a community around — and celebrating — Black people who love plants.  

Flower Power: Farm-to-Vase Movement Takes Root on Chicago’s South and West Sides

Eco House’s Englewood farm site. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Eco House is planting the seeds for a homegrown flower industry on vacant lots in Englewood, Woodlawn and West Garfield Park. We learn about the mission behind this slow flowers movement.

Wanna Beat the Heat? Some Splash Pads Are Open, But Check Before You Go

The Park District has opened some of its splash pads during the heatwave. (Chicago Park District)

The Chicago Park District has turned the water on at some, but not all, of its splash pads.

All the Planets Visible to the Naked Eye on View in July

Jupiter is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Look for it in July. (Hypervel / Flickr)

July is a great month for planet watching. Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars and Mercury will all make an appearance.

Come On In, The Water’s Comfy! Lake Michigan is 10 Degrees Warmer Than 2019

Lake Michigan. (VV Nincic / Flickr)

It’s not quite bathwater warm — that honor goes to Lake Erie — but Lake Michigan’s average surface temperature has topped 72 degrees thanks to the recent heat wave. 

Activists Pushing to Close McKinley Park Asphalt Plant Protest in Front of Owner’s Home

Protesters outside the North Side home of MAT Asphalt owner. (Neighbors for Environmental Justice)

Environmental activists from the city’s Southwest Side brought their ongoing fight against MAT Asphalt to the North Side front yard of owner Michael Tadin Jr. on Thursday night.

Piping Plover Chicks Need Names! Submit Your Suggestions

A piping plover on Waukegan Beach in 2018. (Ethan Ellis / Flickr)

The three chicks hatched in mid-June and now local birding organizations have created a contest to give them names. Submissions are open through Wednesday.

Looking for Natural Wonders Close to Home? Check Out Openlands’ ‘Get Outside Map’

Waterfall Glen is one of the Chicago region’s natural wonders. (Robert Martinez / Flickr)

Openlands’ searchable guide to parks, preserves, prairies, woodlands and more is a great resource for nature lovers. 

Giant Tic-Tac-Toe Grid? Nope, It’s Millennium Park’s Social Distance Circles

Millennium Park’s Great Lawn is dotted with social distance circles. (Chicago Mayor’s Office)

Millennium Park’s Great Lawn is open to visitors again, with painted-on circles in place to emphasize social distancing guidelines. 

We Can’t Get Enough of This Head-Bobbing Owl With Attitude

Northern Saw-whet owl. (James St. John / Flickr)

The northern saw-whet is a tiny owl with a big personality. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff caught this normally secretive owl performing a hilarious stare down.

Farmers Markets Reopening, With Changes. Pick Up Fresh Fruits and Veggies, Then Skedaddle

(Illinois Farmers Market Association / Facebook)

A flood of farmers markets are getting ready to open, but visitors should expect a different experience in 2020. For starters, there will be no picking through produce and dawdling will be discouraged. 

Street Sweeping Just Got Real. Enforcement in Effect as of July 1

(Arvell Dorsey Jr. / Flickr)

Car owners have been getting a pass in 2020 when it comes to ignoring street sweeping signs, but that ends Wednesday.

‘Neighbor Pass’ Gives Locals First Access as Garfield Park Conservatory Reopens

Garfield Park Conservatory is reopening its 10 acres of outdoor gardens in phases. (Courtesy of Garfield Park Conservatory)

Taking a phased approach, the conservatory is reopening its outdoor grounds to neighbors on July 1, members on July 8 and everyone else starting July 15.

The Field Museum Is Recruiting Citizen Scientists To Study the Monarch Butterfly

A monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed, which is the sole food source for monarch caterpillars. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Scores of Chicagoans have planted milkweed — the monarch’s host plant — in their yards and other green spaces, but how effective are those efforts? The Field Museum is recruiting citizen scientists to find out.