News Release
 
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351, sondra.katzen@czs.org
 
September 20, 2019
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Brookfield Zoo’s New Hamill Family Nature Plaza Provides a Green Space to Relax, Learn, Explore, and Have Fun
 
Brookfield, Ill. –More than 85 percent of Americans live in an urbanized area, many without easy access to green spaces and exploring the outdoors. The Chicago Zoological Society, which is committed to providing nature-related and animal experiences in a welcoming environment, announced today, September 20, a new learning, fun, and exploration space at Brookfield Zoo. Located at the south end of the park, the Hamill Family Nature Plaza sits on the site of the former Baboon Island. Additionally, the restaurant previously known as Scoops has been renovated and reopened as Peacock Café and Grill.

The east side of Hamill Family Nature Plaza is all about relaxation. Guests are greeted by a serene natural environment with undulating winding pathways that feature opportunities for nature play. Oversized chimes and flower-shaped percussion instruments allow zoogoers to use their imagination and create beautiful sounds individually or as a family. A fabricated nest is nearby where youngsters can climb in and pretend to be a bird.

During the summer season, guests will definitely notice the presence of dragonflies and pollinators such as butterflies as they flutter, fly, and buzz among the more than 10,000 perennial plants and 8,200 square feet of perennial seeds used to cover the landscape. Additionally, nearly 670 deciduous, evergreen, and flowering trees and shrubs were planted throughout the 1.5-acre space.

A variety of seating, including metal-framed benches, is situated along the winding pathways allowing zoogoers places to rest and enjoy the scenery. The benches are fabricated of an eco-friendly polypropylene plastic made from 90 percent recycled materials and are themselves 100 percent recyclable.

The council ring also provides an area for guests to socialize and relax or it can be a space used for structured educational offerings, such as Zoo Camp. It is dedicated to Danish-American landscape architect Jens Jensen, who played a prominent role in the creation of the prairie-style architecture found in many gardens and urban landscapes and who also played a role in the foundation of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The west side of Hamill Family Nature Plaza is all about discovery. A science exploration garden with bench seating provides an area for structured zoo education programming. A water interpretation garden features wetland-type plantings, and educates guests about water issues and the importance of having green space for responsible drainage. And, a sensory garden, located along the main promenade, features an accessible space with raised beds, wide walkways, and planting spaces that can accommodate guests of all abilities. There, guests can learn about summer flowers and vegetables that they can plant at home, along with the importance of pollinators. During the summer months, guests may encounter the zoo’s adult and teen volunteers, who will be able to provide additional information about nature-related and green-themed topics.

Located in the middle of the plaza is a large, open-sided, three-season pavilion that is the perfect setting during the warmer seasons for an informal chat with the animal care staff and the zoo’s animal ambassadors. The space may also be used for education programs such as Family Fun Saturdays and teachers’ courses. After hours, the area provides a wonderful venue to rent for private functions such as weddings, receptions, and corporate events.

A day filled with learning and exploration can lead to an appetite, and the Peacock Café and Grill features a menu themed around sustainable dining. Options include locally grown produce, ice cream made with sustainably sourced palm oil, grass-fed beef burgers, antibiotic-free chicken, and sustainably harvested Antarctic salmon. There is also the Impossible™ burger for those who prefer a plant-based option. Ice cream favorites include sundaes, shakes, malts, and floats. A variety of flavors and toppings are available. Guests can also try a freshly made funnel cake sprinkled with powdered sugar or topped with ice cream. Guests 21 years or older can quench their thirst with Brookfield Zoo’s branded beer—Hair of the Frog—that is served on tap. Outdoor seating provides views of Hamill Family Nature Plaza. An updated interior seating area is also an option.

The nature plaza was made possible through a generous donation from the Hamill Family Foundation.
 
About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit CZS.org.

Photo Captions—credit Chicago Zoological Society/Cathy Bazzoni
1: Hamill Family Nature Plaza encompasses 1.5 acres on the south side of Brookfield Zoo. It provides a welcoming environment where guests can learn, explore, relax, and have fun.
 
2: The council ring at the Hamill Family Nature Plaza provides an area for Brookfield Zoo guests to socialize and relax or it can be a space used for structured educational offerings, such as Zoo Camp. Along the pathway are oversized chimes (pictured right in the background) that allow zoogoers to use their imagination and create beautiful sounds individually or as a family.
 
3: Hamill Family Nature Plaza is on the site of Brookfield Zoo’s former Baboon Island where a variety of species resided. The habitat dated back to the opening of the zoo in 1934. To commemorate the past, a small portion of the reddish-brown gunite was salvaged and stands in the northeast corner of the space with graphics depicting its history.
 
4 and 6: Hamill Family Nature Plaza’s landscape features more than 10,000 perennial plants and 8,200 square feet of perennial seeds. Additionally, more than 650 deciduous, evergreen, and flowering trees and shrubs were planted throughout the 1.5-acre space.
 
5: Located in the middle of the plaza is a large, open-sided, three-season pavilion that is the perfect setting during the warmer seasons for an informal chat with the animal care staff and the zoo’s animal ambassadors. The space may also be used for education programs such as Zoo Camp, Family Fun Saturdays, and teachers’ courses. After hours, the pavilion and plaza provides a wonderful venue to rent for private functions weddings, receptions, and corporate events.
 
7: A sensory garden features an accessible space with raised beds, wide walkways, and planting spaces that can accommodate guests of all abilities.
 
8: A living wall at Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Nature Plaza.
 
9: Flower-shaped percussion instruments allow zoogoers to use their imagination and create beautiful sounds individually or as a family. In the background is the new Peacock Café and Grill featuring a menu themed around sustainable dining.
 
10: Brookfield Zoo guests can eat at new picnic tables that look out at the Hamill Family Nature Plaza. The tables are fabricated of an eco-friendly polypropylene plastic made from 90 percent recycled materials and are themselves 100 percent recyclable.
 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071
E-mail: Sondra.Katzen@CZS.org

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