Island Oasis Nature Play Garden

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Contact Information:
Address: 1100 S Mason Block Club
Neighborhood/Community Area: Austin
Garden Established: 2020
Protected by NeighborSpace: 2021
Social Media/Website:
Community Partners: Part of the West Side Nature Play Network
About the Garden:
The Island Oasis is a nature play garden at 1114 S Mason Ave in The Island neighborhood, in the Austin community, on the west side of Chicago.

In the spring of 2018, residents of the 1100 S Mason block started this community garden following an initial Earth Day cleanup in partnership with staff and students from nearby G.R. Clark Elementary School. Neighbors mobilized activation of the unused space together by hosting block club meetings, movie nights, CAPS meetings, and holiday celebrations. The garden has now become a thriving intergenerational community space and play area for young children in the area.

“This garden—from its small beginnings to its current transformation—shows the power of neighbors working together for the good of the community, and the possibilities that can only happen through collaboration.” – Nate Tubbs, 1100 S Mason Block Club

In 2018, the block club mobilized its vision by first working to secure the transfer of this city lot to the urban land trust NeighborSpace. NeighborSpace protects community-managed open space projects; by holding the title, providing insurance, and offering multiple resources, community groups’ efforts are protected and advanced. Through connecting with NeighborSpace, the Island Oasis Nature Play Garden became part of the West Side Nature Play Network initiative, a five-year project funded by the Christopher Family Foundation.

“Now, more than ever, we need outdoor spaces to gather—so that we can both plan for the future, and participate in the moment. Using community gardens as natural spaces for intergenerational activity, not just for planting, but for playing, for being together, for noticing nature, for being part of a community—The Island Oasis garden is just that, an oasis for this very moment.” – Robin Cline, NeighborSpace

In late 2020 and early 2021, the 1100 S Mason Block Club, Neighbor Space, Human Scale, Common Worlds Playscapes, and residents of the wider Island neighborhood underwent a community design process, led by Human Scale. This process included neighbor survey input, three community forums, and many block-level and design meetings. Construction began in the spring of 2021 and continued throughout the summer, including many volunteer hours from community members.

“Architecture is a powerful tool for social impact. When the community is given the opportunity to make decisions and be involved throughout the entire development, it produces long-lasting and meaningful spaces. Together, we transformed an empty lot into a garden, play space and a source of civic pride.” – Aylen Pacheco, Human Scale

This garden a proud participant of Budburst, a community-focused, data driven approach to plant conservation.