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2004 Conservation and Native Landscaping Awards Descriptions

 

Chicago Park District
Humboldt Prairie River
Chicago, Illinois

The restoration of Humboldt Prairie River began in June 2003 and took 1 year to complete. Project goals included: 1) ecological restoration Prairie River and surrounding buffer landscape; 2) preservation of the historic Jensen landscape; and 3) accommodation of contemporary visitor use patterns.

The project scope included the installation of solar panels and a wind turbine. This natural power source re-circulates lagoon water and increases dissolved oxygen by pumping it from the north end of the Prairie River to the reconstructed waterfall at the south end, ending the wasteful practice of constantly tapping the city’s water to supply the lagoon. Wildlife benefits because the chlorine in the city water supply is harmful to aquatic life and phosphorous in the city water supply increases nutrient loads, creating algae blooms and low dissolved oxygen. The project also included dredging the filled-in portions of the Prairie River to reconnect it to the main lagoon, redesigning pedestrian pathways, restoring stony brooks and waterways, thinning of weedy trees, removing non-native invasive plant species, and reintroducing native wetland, prairie grasses and wildflowers to the area. Interpretive signage provides information about native habitat and renewable energy. This restoration project renews Jensen’s vision for the prairie river, restores the water flow and improves biological diversity.

The Humboldt Prairie River restoration project was funded with $300,000 from ComEd, an Exelon Company, and a state grant of $1,200,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity/Illinois First.

Ecological management activities include controlled burn management of prairie and wetland landscape, overseeding, supplemental plug planting with native species, invasive species control and removal, and water quality monitoring of the lagoon. Management activities are carried out by both community volunteers and natural area contractors.

Volunteer monitoring activities include plants (Junior Earth Team/JETs), butterflies (The Butterfly Network and CPD), dragonflies (Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum), and birds (Chicago Audubon Society and the Bird Conservation Network).

 

Park District of Highland Park
City of Highland Park
Hidden Creek Aqua Park Detention Basin
Highland Park, Illinois

Prairie grasses and wildflowers bloom at the entryway to Highland Park thanks to the vision and dedication of the City of Highland Park, its citizen-led Environmental Commission and the Park District of Highland Park.

In 1998, native plants replaced approximately acre of turfgrass in the dry detention basin in front of the Park District’s Hidden Creek Aqua Park. This prairie planting, on City property, fronts the thoroughfare into Highland Park (Central Avenue) and is seen by hundreds of residents and visitors daily. It not only serves to increase awareness of the prairie aesthetic, but also helps improve the quality of stormwater runoff as it goes to the east fork of the Chicago River’s north branch.

The highly visible location of the basin, as well as the publicity it has received, have increased awareness of the "beauty of biodiversity." The detention basin is a riot of color in summer. The seedheads stand in winter to demonstrate that native plantings are colorful, attractive and healthy, thus enriching the lives of the region's citizens.

 

Village of Deer Park
Vehe Farm
Deer Park, Illinois

In 1999 the Village of Deer Park purchased the 14-acre Vehe Farm. Funding was possible through an Illinois Open Space grant, a loan from Corlands, and other funding. The Village established the Vehe Farm Foundation to be its agent and to provide stewardship and management of the property on its behalf. A key part of the vision for the property is to restore approximately eight acres of original prairie and recreate the pond/wetland area once present. There is a prairie and wetland/pond nature trail that takes visitors around the restored areas. The overall related goal is to enhance the quality of life in the community, restore habitats for native flora and fauna, educate the public on the natural history of the area and the importance of restoring native habitat, and provide opportunities for public awareness and student environmental educational programs.

Site management includes ongoing removal of invasive plants such as buckthorn, wild rose, purple loosestrife (beetle introduction), cattails, to name a few; overseeding of prairie; increasing species variety; prescribed fire; and bluebird trail maintenance. A small oak savanna using native oaks is planned.

Working with the community and Citizens for Conservation, the Village envisions the farm to be a destination point for families, students, seniors, and disabled persons where they can experience the essence of the original prairie and wetland, and the natural history of the area.

 

Village of Glenview
Gallery Park Native Landscaping
Glenview, Illinois

Gallery Park covers 140 acres of the former Glenview Naval Air Station. The park includes numerous active–use facilities such as athletic fields, tennis courts, picnic areas, Attea Middle School, and Park Center (an indoor athletic facility). In addition, Gallery Park includes the 45-acre Lake Glenview and 35 acres of newly created natural areas intended for passive recreational use and natural habitat. These areas have been seeded to native species appropriate for site conditions and are actively managed to ensure the establishment of these plants as well as the populations of native animals that are attracted to the site. Prairie, meadow, wet meadow, and wetland areas can all be found, and provide a variety of habitat for both flora and fauna. Along with recreational facilities and native habitats the park has educational uses and provides stormwater detention. The lake design features trip berms for erosion control, shallow shelves for wetland plantings, and a naturalized shoreline. Seeding of wet meadow species began in 1999, and submergent and emergent wetland plugs have been installed annually since 2000. Construction of a nesting beach for aquatic turtles was initiated in September of 2002 in order to provide safe reproduction sites for these animals.

The submergent and emergent wetland plants, including such species as white water lily, spatterdock, pickerelweed, arrow arum, and river bulrush, provide habitat for insects, fish and birds. Forage fish arrived as the lake filled, and stocked predator/sport fish such as largemouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, and northern pike support a recreational fishing program that draws visitors to the shoreline. Wet meadow plantings support insects, reptiles and amphibians, small mammals, and birds. A faunal survey in 2002 documented the presence of northern water snakes, garter snakes, bullfrogs, muskrats, snapping turtles, and crayfish. Birds observed near the lake include great blue herons, green herons, cormorants, killdeer, barn swallows, savannah sparrows, mallards, red-winged black birds and geese. As plantings mature follow-up faunal surveys are planned. Lake Glenview’s progress is aggressively monitored, with monthly water quality analysis (when water is open), erosion observation, and invasive species control.

 

Village of Schaumburg
Yeargin Creek Improvements
Schaumburg, Illinois

In 1999, the Village approved a proposal to restore the natural alignment of Tributary No. 5 to the West Branch of Salt Creek and enhance the adjacent wetlands. The project included the restoration of the natural alignment of portions of the creek, replacing storm culverts with bridges, stabilization and regrading the stream bank, tree preservation, native plantings, and a series of riffles in the creek to promote aeration, to slow the water flow, and prevent erosion.

The west Branch of Salt Creek runs east of the project location through Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary, portions of Elk Grove, IL, ultimately ending at Busse Forest Preserve. The stream portion included in the project is 1,070 linear feet with native plantings comprising approximately 1.5 acres. As a result of the work done with this project, the village has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of erosion and sedimentation as well as an increase in the amount of birds, butterflies, and frogs that frequent the area. The new native plant community provides year round seasonal interest and has been widely embraced by the community.

The management of this site supports the goals of the Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Plan, the Village of Schaumburg Biodiversity Recovery Plan, and the recommendations developed by the Salt Creek Watershed Network by involving citizens and our local government in our efforts to ensure the conservation of biodiversity, restoring an ecological process that supports sustainability, developing citizen awareness of biodiversity, enriching the quality of life in Schaumburg through improved water quality, reduced sedimentation, increased water infiltration, decreased engine emissions, and by creating an opportunity for citizens to experience the beauty and restorative powers of nature.

 


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