Monday, November 2, 2009

Zhanna Yermakov, Chicago Park District presentation Posts

Please respond to the presentation by Zhanna Yermakov.


  1. Overall, I really enjoyed the presentation by Zhanna Yermakov. It was very interesting to learn about what her job specifically involves and how she takes un-tamed wildlife and turns it into a park or “wildlife area” that is sustainable and modified for the use of people. I am happy that she had actual images to show the differences her work does. This really allowed us the students (or her audience) the ability to connect and truly understand the before and after theme.
    However, my favorite part of her presentation is how she chose to open the discussion, discussing how she utilized the word “people” in the title of her presentation. Essentially, (as this might be sad to society) if the people don’t enjoy the land, and they can’t “reap” benefits from it, the program that she operates won’t exist. She basically (at least my interpretation of what she was trying to imply) is that although it is indeed nature they are “saving” or trying to keep surviving, it depends on the opinions and feelings of actually people. I thought this overall idea was sad, it seemed that our society truly doesn’t believe in true wildlife. In my opinion what Zhanna does is actually make wildlife more aesthetically pleasing and in doing so actually changes “wildlife”. It is quite ironic that people visit “wildlife” areas that have actually be changed by man to make sure that people will find the area beautiful and thus visit. Although I understand that the work she does pleases her target audience (and thus supports her cause) it is hard to believe that any place is truly “wildlife”.

  2. I found Zhanna Yermakov presentation on parks in the city very interesting, though some of the things she said seemed fairly obvious. When she spoke about how people only like the parks that are groomed and that they don’t want to see real wildlife, I thought that this was something that almost all people have in common. I honestly find it more enjoyable to look at a well-groomed garden over a lot that’s been overrun with plant life.
    I think that in order to preserve native species and if we want places that are truly wild to be in the city, that we have to educate or inform people of the importance of these plants, which seems to be what Yermakov is doing. I think that if people were educated on Chicago wildlife, knew about the endangered plant life, then they would be more than willing to support a more ‘wild’ look over one that’s covered in unused soccer fields. This is why I like the new project that she’s working on by Burnham. In finding land that people never use and transforming this into land for Chicago wildlife, they may start to change public opinion. Since this land is a part of the area where people go to play soccer and things like that, then maybe they’ll see that the area that has been transformed is something that is worth preserving.
    After Yermakov’s presentation, I found myself wanting to go to parks that she has worked on as well as parks that she has not yet worked on and really see the difference. I saw some transformations in the picture, but I think it would be interesting to see if the changes that she has made to the parks have really made a difference on the people going to these parks.

  3. It seemed our speaker on the Chicago park district really struck home with most of us in the class. The fact is we take a lot of our park space for granted. Being a student I’ve almost been solely entrenched in Lincoln park and the Loop campus’ with slight deviations to different neighborhoods around the city. This presentation was a great way to learn about the park districts dedication to preservation and all the great areas around the city that I have yet to enjoy. I always thought that the park spaces were limited to those surrounding the lake and on the south side near Washington square park, Jackson park, and Hyde park. It was great to see some of the wetland areas that were converted into beautiful landscapes that can be enjoyed on the west and south sides. Now, as a senior I plan to get out as much as possible to enjoy the park spaces I have just discovered. What I found to be most interesting about Zhanna’s presentation was the park districts ability to restore high traffic areas to their natural habitat. Places such as the shoreline on the south side and other restoration projects have been really important to the endangered wildlife of the Chicago community and often these things that the park district go under the radar. People complain about trash in Lincoln Park or things of that nature, but rarely realize the quality work that is being done in the Chicagoland area. Zhanna seemed to be really passionate about the projects in which she was undertaking and I think it really shows in the presentation she gave us. One thing that struck me was the realization that the Chicago residents rarely use mowed lawn areas such as the one she highlighted along Lakeshore Drive. I think it would be really unique for an urban area like Chicago to be able to have a wild park life right next to one of the country’s most historic highways. That project would add so much value to the drive that we often enjoy down Lakeshore.

  4. I don't think that Zhanna Yermakov breathed once during her presentation to our class. I was amazed that she was able to give as much information as she did about the Chicago park district's work and the multifaceted challenges that they face. I found her presentation to be relevant in that many of these problems seemed to mirror the ones that we have discussed in our class. This may be a result of a similar context (environmental concern in an urban center, educating the public on environmental concerns) but it seems that the Chicago Park District's approach to environmentalism is useful to all of us after this class ends and as we finalize our Space for Nature Projects. Some things she said that jumped out as me as important:

    - using a non-native annual flower as a way of beautifying a preserve-in-process.
    When Zhanna mentioned that the park district often plants the same (pretty) flower on sites when it wants to build public support around a project, I couldn't help but think about what we are doing with developing brand identities. These things are a means to an end, and should not eclipse the actual environmental work that we do, but they are important in that a brand, or a simply aesthetic decision is the first thing that the public sees. It is a way of communicating with an audience, and it seems that there are multiple ways of accomplishing this.

    -allowing scientists and members of the general public (the birdwatchers) to be a part of the decision-making process of restoring a preserve
    Her story about quelling the protests of birdwatchers seemed to be useful in that allowing the most diverse group of people into the process of becoming sustainable allows for the most diverse population of concerned citizens. Also, when you can get someone to act, show up to an event, or other direct action, the tangibility of that experience ends up translating into real concern for the issue at hand. That's an important idea for our Space for Nature projects, and building an environmental movement as a whole.

    There are probably some other points I could touch on but i'll stop here.

  5. Rachel Markel
    The presentation about the park district was one of my favorite presentations thus far in the class. Zhanna talked about issues that were easy to relate to and made it seem very easy to get involved in. The huge volunteer projects to plant native species back into areas is just such a wonderful idea. I was wondering if anyone was able to write down her information before we had to move on to new things after the presentation, because planting new plants is just such a wonderful thing to be involved in.
    In our Nature Conservancy group we talked about how our storefront location would be a great place for groups like the Park District to hold meetings and to gather everyone to go out and volunteer. The two just tie in so well together.
    I also feel like with what the park district is doing, it can show that the city can easily tie into nature. If we continue to preserve that nature that is in the city, or even expand the city, we won’t have to make huge campaigns about how people in the city can only enjoy nature on posters.
    I hope that with the Nature Conservancy project, people are more aware of the beauty and importance of the natural world. Maybe working together with the two will open the eyes of people in the city and they will want to become more involved with the park district. I hope that these two projects will show people in the city what they would be missing if we let all of the land waste away. Maybe everyone would start to take a little time to replanting species, growing nature in their own space, such as a garden, or go help to stabilize the ground so it does not erode away so quickly.

  6. Zhanna Yermakov's presentation was loaded with information- she probably could have kept speaking for another entire class period! I really enjoyed her presentation and believe that the whole class did as well. It was really awesome to hear someone speak that is actually involved in the planning of parks in Chicago. It made the topics we studied in class more tangible and close-hitting. It was also really cool because I learned about parks in the city that I have never been to before but now know about and can go.
    I do wish that she had more time to speak because some very intense topics were only vaguely mentioned- but in no way am I blaming Zhanna Yermakov. She did a wonderful job and covered a lot of topics. There were just so many different things to talk about and a lot of questions that I wanted to ask but there just wasn’t enough time.
    The part that I found hardest about her job was how she had to make such a wide array of people happy with her work. It must be so hard to get people to understand change when they don't see a reason for it (such as needing to groom a park in order to preserve the bird life and the neighborhood believes the birds are just fine.) That is one tough cookie to try and please all sides- fauna, flora, humans and the government. Her tactics are clever though- planting vibrant flowers in transforming spaces because people like them and they are pretty. It’s a simple and harmless trick to change public views. Some people need to see immediate benefits while others don’t and it can be a tipping scale.
    Chicago is blessed to have so many parks compared to other cities but the more the merrier.

  7. I liked how blase Zhanna was in response to the question of whether or not it's important to preserve or create habitats that were originally there. This seems to be pretty much in direct opposition to TNC and along the lines of what I believe: if you can give people something that they want, do it, because they're not going to ask for the high-quality resource-intensive restoration projects that a scientist is going to want. The number one priority of the forest preserve administrators is going to be convincing people that buckthorn is a problem species that needs to be eliminated from parks and forest preserves. Second to that is convincing people that deer control is a good idea.


  8. I though Zhanna's presentation was really interesting. For a period of time I thought I wanted to get into Landscape Architecture, but I the more I learned about it the less appealing it became. Zhanna reminded me of all the things that I found uninspiring/unimportant about L.A. Like how park landscapes have become so much about ornamental plantings and turf grass, just one thing that I really disliked about L.A. I thought it was really cool that the Chicago Park District has someone like Zhanna who is educated on local/native ecology to edit the landscaping plans and to make the landscapes of Chicago more valuable in terms of their ecology and biodiversity.
    Zhanna was such an engergetic speaker, it was refreshing to see that groups, like the Chicago Park District, are working to become more environmentally concious. One thing I've noticed across the board from speakers from depaul, as well as with our printers we researched was that too many groups don't see the value in hiring someone specific to oversee environmental issues. Zhanna is one example of how its valuable to have someone who is knowledgeable of env. issues as part of a team. It didn't seem like she was trying to make everything natural spaces, she was more so just trying to make sure that every plant/garden space had more than an aesthetic value.
    Overall I thought Zhanna was a great speaker, and I'm excited to check out the parks and projects that she has worked with.

  9. By Ilana
    For nearly twelve years I have been a fan and an advocate for the Chicago Park District. I worked for them for six months in 1999 and two years ago, while working at a restaurant as a sommelier, I coordinated with them to have the corks from the wine bottles used for compost. When I left Chicago to live in Texas for five years, one of the things I missed the most was the vast network of parks, both large and small, where I could walk, jog, swim, play tennis, and people-watch. Through the Park District, Chicago offers a reprieve from the chaos of city life. Recently, when my boyfriend and I locked ourselves out of our apartment, we went to the park at the corner of our block and played table tennis until my sister arrived with a spare set of keys. A stressful situation, rife with inconvenience, swiftly evolved into an hour of fun and entertainment. Simply put, I love the Park District; They've been good to me. Naturally, I was excited to hear what Zhanna Yemakov had to say and I was not disappointed. A little disenchanted, perhaps, but I came away having learned a lot (who knew Chicago had bird corridors and that there was a "bird agenda")including some of the frustrations involved in natural restoration. I could tell that Zhanna is passionate about her work and is genuinely concerned for nature, especially the various projects within the city to revive areas that have been neglected. However, I found it interesting and ironic that her biggest frustration seems to be people. Our class has been largely focused on closing the gap between "nature" and "human" and yet we are continually faced with the reality of how difficult that task can be. Zhanna spoke openly (and I am always grateful when people are candid)about the paradox of trying to encourage people to use the natural spaces while restricting their behavior in order to preserve the areas. This is a valid concern considering how careless some people can be. And yet, without these very people using the parks, there would be little interest in preserving them. Another point that resonated with me was her assessment of how difficult it can be to balance beauty and function. What some people find attractive is not always useful to nature and what is often useful for the encouragement of a healthy, bio-diverse habitat often looks haphazard or like a "jungle" to people. Balancing the needs of people with the needs of nature is obviously difficult and I presume will remain difficult until we can truly close that gap between humans and nature. Zhanna's point about the importance of biodiversity reiterated what we have already learned from mnay of our other speakers and through much of our readings. When more people understand this basic concept, hopefully we can gain a global understanding that it's not just about "us."

  10. I really enjoyed Zhanna's presentation. I learned a lot about the Chicago park district and plenty about restoration. For starters, I had no idea that the park district was a State organizataion. I find that very interesting and can't help but wonder if it plays a part in why our parks are so successful.

    I also thought that her response to our questions about native plants and testing soils to determine what should be put where was rather thought-provoking. Perhaps we as students (or maybe I am just speaking for myself) are naive and idealist, but those questions made perfect sense at the time. Zhanna responded without even thinking that those types of things don't matter and that she doesn't even take them into consideration when planning an area. I've been thinking about that since, and it's really so true. Of course we all know what plants grew here hundreds of years and in a perfect world we might see those species here again, but realisticly the city we have built will not support that type of vegitation and it would be silly to assume that it could. This of course is the difference between parks and preserves. Both suit different people and both serve different purposes at different times. Why didn't I think of that before?

  11. Like the rest of the class, I thought that this presentation was really well done and very engaging. I really appreciated hearing from somebody who is doing something right now to make a positive, concrete change to our current environment. While I appreciated a lot of the other speakers as well, with some of them it was hard to connect their concepts and ideas with the current reality. But with Zhanna's presentation, the results of her passion and ideas are very real, very clear, and something that I can go and experience for myself. I love what she is doing with wildlife restoration- I have always found perfectly manicured lawns and landscapes pretty but disconcerting; my favorite part of my backyard at home is the part in the back that is still wild and full of four-foot high prairie grass. I understand that this is not the aesthetic that we have come to value and appreciate, and I think it's really great that Zhanna and her group included those who want to keep theings the way the are (bird watchers, for example) in the conversation, to try and show why natural vegetation are desirable and beautiful. Also, I love that she mentioned that area at Montrose Beach- I'm up there a lot and I love that part of the park/beach. The 'wildlife preservation areas' that are interspersed throughout all of the running paths are the best part about training/running. It makes me forget I'm in a city. It was also great to see all of the different parks and wildlife areas- many of which I didn't know about but that I hope to now visit. She made me think about this is terms of design as well; not so much for how we design wildlife ares (as they really are probably best when left to design themselves) but how we would design a system that educates us to appreciate the complexities and importance of natural systems. I haven't figured it out yet, but I think that this is an important cause.