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Oh Give Us a Home, Where the Jellyfish Roam: Sherman Park

By JoshMogerman in Miscellaneous on Jun 25, 2011 7:00PM

The folks over at Curbed Chicago are in the midst of a nice series exploring the parks in Chicago’s vaunted emerald necklace. But, we were struck that their piece on Sherman Park missed the coolest tidbit from the Back of the Yards neighborhood’s greatest greenspace: it has jellyfish!

The centerpiece of the gorgeous Burnham and Olmsted designed park is a meandering lagoon ringing the common spaces. In 1999 and again in 2002, biologists stumbled upon hundreds of freshwater jellyfish floating in the water. At the time it was only the fifth sighting of the species (Craspedacusta sowerbii) in the history of Illinois. Full-sized adults are about the size of a nickel and pose no threat to humans (though they do have stinging cells to disable prey). Obviously, they aren't native to these parts and nobody is sure how they were introduced to the lagoon.

We popped over the Sherman Park today in hopes of getting photos of the jellies. While we didn’t find the floaters (Chicago Wilderness calls the occurence of the visible adult stage "sporadic and unpredictable"), we did see a charming park built around Olmsted’s classic views of willows draped over the water, reminiscent of the more well-known Jackson and Washington Parks on the South Side. The jellyfish aren’t the only invasive species in the lagoon---we saw thousands of big green mystery snails near the shoreline. The surrounding neighborhood is a bit rough, but Sherman Park offers a novel respite from the City---and its cheaper than a ticket to the Shedd Aquarium for viewing novel aquatic critters (though we gather the viewing is much better on the museum campus).