Geoffrey Baer tours Palmisano Park with landscape architect Ernie Wong.
In Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, a former quarry has been transformed into 26 acres of green space with wetlands, prairieland, and a fishing pond to form Palmisano Park. The land on which it sits has worn many hats over the millennia, being repurposed many times, both by nature and by humans. Approximately 400 million years ago, Palmisano Park was part of a coral reef system at the bottom of a shallow tropical ocean. With the passage of millenia, the ancient sea bottom became limestone (and eventually what geologists call “dolostone”), buried deep underground. In the nineteenth century, the site became a quarry that was more than 300 feet deep and was used for more than 100 years. In 1970, the quarry became a landfill for construction debris. Finally, in 2009, after years of cleaning up and re-sculpting the site, it opened as Palmisano Park. The park was designed by the site design group, led by landscape architect Ernie Wong, who told Geoffrey Baer that it was “invigorating” to transform a former industrial site into a park that helps build community. Today, people who visit Palmisano Park will find walking paths, a natural wetland area, and a fishing pond partially surrounded by the old quarry walls. A scenic hill – affectionately called “Mount Bridgeport” by locals – was built atop the old construction debris that was scooped out of the area that now forms the fishing pond.