The Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie, Illinois, is a wildlife oasis located within blocks of my home. It is where I go to relax, get away from it all or have a peaceful walk.
In 1929 the Niles Center Park District purchased a 13-acre site that became Emily Park. Although semi-rustic, it had winter outdoor ice skating and summer day camps. After receiving funds from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Emily Park was dedicated as a Nature Center in 1988. Since then it has offered year-round programs from early learning classes to adult trips.
I usually go alone to get lost in the trails filled with wildflowers, grasses and trees. I always look for new spots to read a book, meditate and maybe even take a quick nap. There is a nice mix of shady and sunny areas. I have occasionally rented a canoe to enjoy the three-acre pond. The land is home to foxes, snakes, coyotes, deer and many species of birds.
Occasionally, the Emily Oaks Nature Center would unexpectedly come to me. Several times over the years, a deer or two would be in my yard or front steps in the early morning. They always found their way back to the nature center as the neighborhood came alive.
I am always amazed at how such a peaceful spot can be in the middle of a densely populated area. Even if I am limited in time, I can make the quick walk there and have a few moments with nature.
The Emily Oaks Nature Center has been my peaceful place since I moved to Skokie thirty years ago. It was a key benefit when I bought my house. Since I moved from my house to a condo, I appreciate the serenity there even more. It’s still a short walk away, but it is worlds away.
— John Wroblewski, online writer
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