The Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary provides habitat for migratory birds. It showcases attractive plantings that will serve as public ambassadors for migratory bird habitat. It allows the restoration of native dune ecosystem to the maximum extent possible given its narrow size and its primary purpose of serving migratory birds. Any ecological or land management decisions will be made by first consulting with the land itself.
In 2012 Northwestern University announced that it would be building a Visitors Center adjacent to its southern border along the Evanston lakefront. This project would doom a wild patch of land where cottonwood, hackberry, and box elder trees along with shrubby sand bar willows had grown up after Northwestern constructed its lakefill campus in the 1960s. This scrubby patch of unattended land had become a bird sanctuary, attracting many migrating warblers, vireos and thrushes. It brought nesting Eastern Kingbirds, Baltimore orioles and more, as well as dragonflies and, of course, birdwatchers.
Under Evanston’s city ordinance, Northwestern was required to pay Evanston for every tree it removed. The amount totaled $173,850, and Evanston North Shore Bird Club (ENSBC) member Libby Hill requested that the money be invested in a replacement sanctuary. She and Judy Pollock worked with city staff, facilitated by Paul D'Agostino, to determine the location. The city chose to take advantage of a remnant area of the original sanctuary and expand it onto Clark Street Beach, making a total of 2 acres.
The city selected the Evanston landscape firm of Kettlekamp and Kettlekamp to design a sanctuary. During public hearings participants enthusiastically supported the idea. Initial planting took place during September and October 2015, just three years after the idea was first proposed. The Evanston North Shore Bird Club agreed to become the bird sanctuary's non-profit fiscal agent.