What We’re Doing
Transforming a former limestone quarry into a climbing destination.
Connect people to the outdoors and ignite a sense of adventure.
The history of Palmisano Park on Chicago’s Southeast Side is as rich and diverse as the surrounding community and culture.
The park began as an ancient coral reef dating back 4 million years, and over time, dolomite limestone formed. The Illinois Stone and Lime Company purchased the land in the late 1830s and opened the Stearns Limestone Quarry. After closing in 1970, the quarry became a construction landfill until Trust for Public Land and The North Face (TNF) partnered to turn the giant hole left by the quarry into a much-needed green space for the Bridgeport neighborhood.
The park’s signature climbing boulders were inspired by TNF’s “Walls Are Meant for Climbing” program, which reframes walls as places to bring people together rather than keep them apart. The program makes free climbing boulders and walls available across the country, making climbing more accessible in underserved communities. True to TNF’s goal, the Palmisano Park boulders offer a place to gather, explore, and reconnect with nature.
The same community members who utilize the park also helped design the park. TPL and TNF cohosted workshops at which young people and their families designed the climbing boulders and learned the skills needed to climb them.
The 26-acre park is accessible to 24,000 people and includes a fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, preserved quarry walls, recycled timber boardwalks, and stunning city views. In addition to climbing boulders, Palmisano Park offers environmentally sustainable running/walking trails, multiuse athletic fields, birding, wildlife viewing, fishing, and a place to escape everyday life and explore nature.
We believe that access to the outdoors is a fundamental human need, and all communities are stronger, healthier, and more connected when everyone can get outside and engage with nature.
“The Stearns Quarry of today has certainly come a long way from the days of a limestone quarry,” said Chicago Park District project manager Claudine Malik. “The vibrant, active park is a welcome respite from city life, an educational opportunity, a place for recreation, and a prime example of what creative thinking can accomplish. And yet, the memory of the quarry and its lasting historical legacy remains inextricably a part of the park.”