IL: Chicago - Cook County: Wild Landscaping - Rain Gardens Aren’t Only for Rain


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IL: Chicago - Cook County: Wild Landscaping - Rain Gardens Aren’t Only for Rain

  1. 1. Celebrating our wilderness connections in the Chicago Region Complimentary • SPRING 2011Our Creeks & StreamsThe Littlest CreaturesPaddling the KishwaukeeRiver OttersRain Gardens“[The Tree speaks]: Come to me, here beside the River. Plant yourself beside the River.” —Maya Angelou
  2. 2. Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. Consulting Engineering Services: Civil • Municipal • Construction • Design/Build Mechanical • Structural • Stormwater Management • Traffic Operations Environmental • Surveying • Water Resources Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. 9575 West Higgins Road, Suite 600 Rosemont, IL 60018 Phone 847.823.0500 Fax 847.823.0520 Thinking about a makeover for your yard? Something special that says who YOU are? Were Landscape Craftsmen Experienced and down to earth, we will work together to help create your new look.One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to share your Proudly serving the wider Chicago regionlove of nature with them. June is Leave No Child Inside Month, sowhat better time to rediscover with your family the joy and wonder 508 N. Evergreen Ave. Arlington Heights IL 60004 847-483-9870of outdoor play and exploration! muddybootslandscaping.comVisit to find a June event near you.
  3. 3. As beautiful as the winter is, and with my love of the changing seasons, still there is a wonderful thrill as Spring arrives. The smell of freshness in the air, the returning birds and wildlife emerging, all feels magical to me. In this issue we are highlighting streams and rivers in our region, and feature some great articles I’m sure you’ll enjoy. This is the third issue of Way of the Wilds, and I’m hoping we can continue publishingThis free magazine educates and and distributing this important magazine. The biggest challenge has been funding, as Iinforms through articles written by local know so many are feeling these days. If you or anyone you know is interested in advertis-experts, offering ideas for experiencingand taking ownership and pride in the ing, investing, or has ideas to share, email me at— pleaseearth and its processes around them. don’t hesitate to write. My intention has been to expand the awareness of the naturalWe are dedicated to providing localphotography and information of interest world in our area. I’d love (and need) to have additional support and involvement!to those involved in local stewardshipas well as pieces of interest for everyone This issue introduces expanded articles on our website— you’ll see the green www iconinterested in conservation, recreation (at right) near these articles. Just go to the website, click on the issue and a largerand their families. version will open for you. You can download this pdf, or read it online.Publishers: www wDebbie Mackall, Kerry Leigh Happy planting, and I hope to see you again with the summer issue!A portion of every issue of Way of —Debbie Mackall, Publisherthe Wilds is donated to support ournatural resources.To place an ad in Way of the Wilds, pleasecall Debbie at 847-726-2093, visit, or email for information and Debbie Mackall is the Creative Director 19th Annualad rates. and artistic visionary of Shine Visual ChicagoThanks to our sponsers! Communications. She will personally River Day See us on Facebook! Ecological Services oversee your project, designing andChristopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. producing your materials to provide theIntegrated Lakes Management most dynamic and impressive image for Saturday, May 14, 2011Editorial your company. 9 am – 12 pmPlease send your editorial suggestionsor other correspondence to debbie@ As needed, we will provide all of your Over 4,000 volunteers will gather for a media needs from design, writing and web of hands-on environmental work along the Chicago River. Volunteers will collect©2011 Way of the Wilds. All rights programming through printed materials garbage, remove invasive vegetation, sprucereserved. Way of the Wilds is a registered trade- and delivery. See our website for samples up river-edge trails, and much more.mark of Shine Visual Communications, Inc. of satisfied customers.We do not endorse the products or services Be part of the revival of the Chicago River!and are not responsible for any claims made Let’s get started!in advertisements. We reserve the right To find a Chicago River Day location nearto refuse advertising which we feel is you, visit and signnot compatible with our intention. up today!No part of this publication may be reprinted Presented bywithout permission from the publisher. Thegoal of Way of the Wilds is to educate andinform, bring people and nature together and 847-726-2093 | www.shinevc.comencourage interaction with our natural world.w ww.wayofthewilds. c o m Cover photo by Ray Mathis Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 3
  4. 4. By Frank Veraldi to the cohesive nature of water, gravity is briefly over-powered setting a spring A stream is a magical bond between into motion, pushing up and through The two elements, earth and water– bound unto themselves, bound together, and the earth. The spring boils into a seep, where the cohesive forces of the water have sliced a small escape wedge through Magical pulled through the landscape by gravity. A stream is a ribbon of life etching a the ground materials once deposited by mosaic– barren and lush; scoured and great glaciers. Bond piled; torrential and tranquil. This rib- bon of life, when healthy, maintains a Falling down the rim of the valley, the velocity of the conjoined drops gather delicate balance between the water, the Between speed, and transfer energy back into the soil, the creatures and the plants. earth by tumbling gravel and carrying When streams have room to move clay. This process is called sediment Earth around in their active floodplains they create backwaters, oxbow lakes, wetland transport, and without it, a stream would not have a diverse array of stream depressions and riparian grasslands. bottoms or substrates, nor the ability & Water When streams are prevented from this dance of dynamic self creation, these to fertilize its floodplain. Several more seeps join each other as our first drop diverse wetlands begin to vanish from from the oak savanna leaf arrives at the the landscape as we have seen in our bottom of the valley rim, now a full- urban streams that have been restricted fledged creek. in their movement by channelization. This newfound energy begins to push By not allowing a stream to erode and larger pieces of earth, but carves shrewd- move in the landscape, and by mak- ly as the bonded droplets are pulled by ing the riparian zone all the same, the gravity the quick and easy way. The liq- stream and its biology begins to die. uid ribbon begins to spin: first left then In the beginning… right, then left, then right again. This is A stream begins with a drop of water called helical flow, and important creek on a leaf, perhaps in an oak savanna on fish such as hornyhead chub and com- a hill of piled sands and gravels. The mon shiner rely on this process to bring drop is pulled by gravity through root, them food. Large piles of stone begin to soil and till. Deep below the hill, the sort where elevation changes are greatest. drop joins with billions of others which The increased velocity from a quick drop collectively we call groundwater. Due in elevation slings the liquid ribbon thatPage 4 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
  5. 5. is our creek to the opposite side of the ates a hemi-marsh, a mix of vegetation forces, as intended by nature, are impec-channel spearing the bank and bed. The and open water that is bowl shaped cably musical. Streams can be beautifulspinning ribbon, like a corkscrew, shaves with a wet prairie rim. Here the liquid melodies that erode and deposit, andoff clay, sand and stone from the bank, ribbon loses much of its energy and the resonate through and over the land. Uand in one motion, drops them to the corkscrew stops spinning. The streamother side of the channel just down- splits into braided paths, and in some Frank Veraldi is a biologist with thestream. This process is called cut and fill areas, just a mass jumbling of reeds and US Army Corps of Engineers at thealluviation which produces that classical open water. At the edge of this terrace, a Chicago District.snakelike meandering pattern of a creek narrow outlet releases the liquid ribbonviewed from the sky looking down. back into a helical knife– this sediment free ribbon is now an extra fine blade. Turtle photo by Brian Tang, stream photo by Hank ErdmannA summer thunderstorm swells the As the ribbon of water falls down thecreek so that it overtops its banks and side of the ancient river valley terrace, itbegins to flow faster with much momen- gobbles up clay, sand and gravel, creat-tum. The liquid ribbon is no longer a ing a large ravine, the floor of which isdelightful cork screw, but a raging del- now occupied by a very large creek.uge of suspended rock and stone. This iscalled a channel forming event in which And Now From Creek to River….the water reworks both the channel and The wet prairie has long turned intothe floodplain into new configurations. dark forest. The vast floodplain of theA weakened clay bank gives way to this Illinois River has now silted in withnatural sandblaster– its plants, soil, and upland clays to create prime conditionstill melt away into the flow. for huge trees. The once oak savannaA week after the storm the shrunken spring now transfers its mass of water todeluge has returned to the clear liquid the greater river, becoming one with theribbon from ground fed droplets. The helical energy that drives stream life, theaftermath is revealed; the stream now magical bond between earth and water.flows left where it once flowed right, The same forces that drive life on earthand in its place is left a weakly connect- also govern the universe we know. With-ed backwater that will slowly fade into out these forces there can be no life.the surrounding woodland– a masked Stream life requires the constant pres-footprint of what once was. sure of an applied force of flowing waterAt the first terrace of the valley, the called hydraulics. The word hydraulicchanges in elevation are slight, and comes from the Greeks, “hydr”– watergravity gently loosens its grip and cre- and “aulos”– musical instrument. These Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 5
  6. 6. StreamLeadersCommunity Involvement By Laura Barghusen Making a Difference on our Waterways We started the StreamLeaders volunteer StreamLeaders volunteers put on waders program at OpenLands with partners and step off the banks and into the such as the Illinois Department of water. Working quickly, they scoop Natural Resources and Shedd Aquarium up fish that have been momentarily in 1995 to encourage volunteerism stunned by a fisheries biologist using and facilitate partnerships between a backpack electroshocker. Later, they volunteers and professionals to under- kneel in the water and push their hands take projects that would improve into the streambed feeling for native stream habitat. mussels embedded in the sand, silt or cobbles. Finally they do the “riffle The volunteers come from many dance” moving their feet quickly to The exciting discovery of a young Slipper- different backgrounds: engineers who dislodge macroinvertebrates from riffle want to better understand the waters shell mussel, an Illinois State Threatened rocks and drive them into a net. Back on for which they design systems; a lawyer land, the sorting, separating, and iden- Species, by a volunteer in the meanders and his family looking for something tifying begins. Volunteers learn to tell fun to do together; students seeking last August was an early encouraging sign stonefly larva from sowbugs, and know experience in the field; teachers who the differences between a White and a that the restoration may offer high quality want to bring lessons back to their Creek Heelsplitter mussel. The goal is to classrooms; artists who seek inspiration habitat to support diverse species. see how healthy the stream and it’s in nature; and volunteer site stewards biological community is. Of course who want to get more involved. What there must be number crunching, and they have in common is their love of counts have to be put into equations being out in the water, in prairies and such as the Index of Biotic Integrity woodlands, people who want to connect (IBI) for fish, the Mussel Classification with life in the creek and learn how to Index (MCI), and the Macroinverte- evaluate the health of creeks and rivers brate Biotic Index (MBI), before we can to make a difference in preserving and say how diverse or healthy the stream is. protecting the places they love. For the past two years, StreamLeaders have been monitoring a project, for the Forest Preserve District of Will County, to re-meander a straightened section of Spring Creek in New Lenox, returning it to a more natural condition. Water moves very quickly through straightened channels, resulting in erosion and loss of high quality habitat. The meanders were recreated using a historic photograph as reference, the ditched section was filled in, and the creek waters redirected through the meanders. U Laura is the Associate Greenways Director at Openlands. To learn more or to volunteer go to Page 6 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
  7. 7. The Littlest Creatures Living with Wildlife By Jim BlandOn a recent trip to Alaska my wife Illinois has lost about a thirdand I were introduced to grizzly bears, of its stonefly species.sea lions, humpbacked whales, and We do not usually associate insectsbald eagles. These reasonably can be with winter months but there are twocalled charismatic megafauna. They are stonefly families which are dubbedeasy to see and easily capture people’s “winter” stoneflies. In watersheds thatimagination. Whales feed on krill, a get significant groundwater inputs, sum-microcrustacean; bears, eagles, and sea mer water temperatures can be coolerlions feed on fish, which in turn feed on and winter temperatures warmer thantiny invertebrates in the water. To my in streams fed exclusively by surfacemind the littlest creatures of the natural run-off. Winter stoneflies have darkworld don’t get enough exposure. These coloration and they have an anti-freezelittlest creatures are called “macroinver- substance in their bodies to resist wintertebrates”. The name is meant to convey low temperatures. Many families ofthat they are large enough to be seen by Jim Bland is the author of “Aquatic stoneflies are active predators on otherthe naked eye, roughly 1 mm all the way stream invertebrates; others are Macroinvertebrates of Illinois: Aup to 450 mm. Macroinvertebrates are shredders, shredding leaf materials Supplement for the Illinois RiverWatchcritical creatures for the health of our into edible fish. They are what are called the Program”which will be available through‘first producers’ as they break up organic The Illinois RiverWatch Network is one of ‘RiverWatch’ in Spring of 2011.matter in the stream and in turn become a variety of similar programs around thefood for the larger creatures. country designed to monitor the bio- logical health of regional streams. ThisOne example of a macroinvertebrate statewide program educates and trainsgroup is stoneflies (Plecoptera). They are volunteers to collect high quality datatypically found in fast flowing, highly on the biological health of our regionaloxygenated healthy streams. Some biolo- streams. After training and outfittinggists regard stoneflies as one of the most with appropriate collection equipment,endangered of the aquatic faunas. They volunteers collect stream invertebrates,are among the most sensitive organisms identify them, calculate various stream Wild Bird Center of Fox River Grovein response to stream degradation and "Your Backyard Nature Specialist" metrics based on their collection, andhabitat modification. It is thought that report their data to RiverWatch. U “ Over 1700 individuals have received RiverWatch certification in stream monitoring and have collected an unprecedented amount of information for evaluating Illinois streams since the program was established in 1995. Data Large selection of quality outdoor collected by volunteers over multiple years allows us to gauge the health and bird seed, feeders and houses integrity of our streams and helps professionals make informed decisions about Mon-Sat: 10-5, Sunday: Noon-5 water resources.” Vera Bojic, RiverWatch program manager for the National Free home delivery in McHenry, Lake, Great Rivers Research and Education Center. Northern Cook and Northern Kane Counties For additional information about ‘RiverWatch’ or to request the power point Stone Hill Shopping Center presentation, contact Vera Bojic,at 618-468-2881 or email 934 Route 22 • Fox River Grove, IL 847-639-6594 • Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 7
  8. 8. Wild Spots Flint Creek Preserves k Watershed Features • -1/2 miles of limestone hiking trails 3 traveling through large oaks • Winds through 106 acre private preserve • eatuiful view of natural hill (Kame) B which rises dramatically above the Fox River • inds through 3/4 mile with restord W Flint Creek Watershed, Lake County by Tom Vanderpoel Citizens for Conservation, a nonprofit group in the Barrington area, could see a large wave of development coming in the 1990s, so it went to work on a plan that called for a greenbelt along the creek and surrounding areas. This unremarkable little creek led to a plan co-owned by Citizens for Conservation and the Lake County Forest Preserve District. This fen is home to eight en- dangered species and is being managed intensely to keep the community from degrading and disappearing from an altered ground water regime. The sec- that has seen a twenty year quest to save tion of Flint Creek that flows through oak woods, prairies and wetlands. some of this open space and restore its the forest preserve has a B rating quality • esting spots for spotted sandpipers, N ecosystems. To date the creation of a which is high for Lake County. sedge and marsh wrens, swamp sparrows 680 acre Lake County forest preserve Parking for Grassy Lake and Wagner Fen and sora rails as well as many others. called Grassy Lake, two Citizens for Forest Preserves is at the Lake Barrington Conservation preserves totaling 150 Village Hall located at Old Barrington acres, and two Village of Lake Bar- Road just west of Miller Road. rington preserves totaling 50 acres all Flint Creek winds its way north through line up along the creek. Flint Creek Savanna This savanna lies just south of Grassy the Barrington area eventually find- Grassy Lake Preserve Lake. The quality of the wetlands has The Grassy Lake preserve has 3-1/2 ing the Fox River as it has done for encouraged a pair of sandhill cranes to miles of limestone hiking trails that nest for 14 consecutive years. Spotted millennia. In the late 1980s it was still travel through large oaks along the sandpipers, sedge and marsh wrens, creek. Part of this trail allows tantaliz- surrounded by farm fields, rolling oak swamp sparrows and occasionally sora ing views of the Fox River which will rails have found breeding homes in groves, and had intermittent riffles in be greatly enhanced when the 90 acre the wetland vegetation. Four species newest addition is opened. This section of frogs, toads, painted and snapping the water that sparkled in the sunlight. boasts a natural hill or ‘kame’ that rises turtles live in what were once tiled and dramatically above the Fox River and is abandoned soybean fields. Habitat re- full of history. When the trail veers away strictive butterflies such as eyed-brown, from the creek it takes you on a journey black-dash skippers, and bronze coppers through even larger oak groves that rise float above the sedges. You’ll love it. U above Grassy Lake and its large marsh. Parking is located off of Route 22 south of Wagner Fen Nature Preserve Good Shepherd Hospital. 847-382-7283. Wagner Fen is the northern terminus of Permission is needed to access. the trail and is a 100 acre wetland that is Tom is a biologist with Citizens for Conservation. Turtles and duck on log, by Susan Clark, Marsh Wren photo by Brian Tang.Page 8 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
  9. 9. Places to Play by Steve VossPaddling the Kishwaukee RiverTThe arrival of spring marks the end of the long anticipationand the beginning of the paddling season for manyenthusiasts. The Kishwaukee River is one of Chicagoland’s Kishwaukee River River Kishwaukee Garden Prairie Rd. Lawrenceville Rdpaddling jewels and is one of the most paddled of the Red Horse Bend Park County Line Rd. Epworth Rd. Take Out Put InIllinois Water Trails. To Belvidere Route 20/Grant Hwy.The Kishwaukee River system is made up of several branches Logan Ave.and many tributaries totaling over 160 miles of canoeable To Marengowaterways. Adopted in 1999, the Northeastern Illinois WaterTrail System includes all of the Kishwaukee River as it flows through McHenry, Boone and Winnebago counties. Kishwau-kee is the Potawatomi name for “sycamore tree. Put In Location: Route 20 west through Marengo to County Line Rd. Turn right on County Line Rd. past the “Bridge Out”The Kishwaukee is also one of the three highest water quality signs to the end of the road. Unload and carry boats and gear torivers in Illinois. The Illinois department of Natural Resources river. Many paddling clubs use this.has classified the Kishwaukee as a “Class A” stream, meaning that it is amazingly clean and healthy. Take Out Location: From the Put In Location, drive south to Rt. 20 and turn right. Continue on Route 20 to Garden PrairieThe section of river for this paddle is County Line Road in Rd. and turn right. Cross the bridge over the Kishwaukee RiverMarengo to Red Horse Bend, just east of Belvidere. Along this and turn left onto Lawrenceville Road to Red Horse Bend Park.three to four hour adventure, you’ll encounter farm bridgesand a few homes and farm buildings, but the character of For more regional water trails information, check out thethis pristine small stream remains remarkably wild— wildlife Northeastern Illinois Water Trails Map link: diverse and plentiful. As you silently paddle along, keep Northeastern-Illinois-Water-Trails/View-category.htmlyour senses sharp and tune into your surroundings. One can Don’t Forget:expect to see deer, mink, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, owls, An approved PFD (personal flotation device),vultures, great blue herons and various species of ducks. Theriver banks are mostly wooded and the spring forest floor will Whistle, extra paddle, bow/stern ropes,be in bloom. Plenty of fluids, snacks/food, first aid kit,Good boat handling skills will be needed to negotiate two Dry bag with rain gear and a changevery small runnable dams. Because of the many turns in the of clothes, Sunscreen, lip balm, hat andriver and a possible downed tree, portaging is always a pos- insect spray.sibility. Breaks or lunch can be enjoyed on one of the sandbars You are paddling on private lands so it isor beaches you find along the way. They will also provide you important to be respectful and carry out allwith a wonderful opportunity for a swim. U of your trash.Steve Voss is an avid paddler of well over 1500 miles a year. Heron photo by Brian TangWith over 40 years on the water, Steve is a member of thePrairie State Canoeists; Illinois Paddling Council’s PaddlerPatrol; Des Plaines River Water Trail Keeper and maintainsthe Nippersink Water Trail. Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 9
  10. 10. Field Guide Exploring a Stream Edge By Nan Buckhardt Spring is a time of renewal in nature; The eggs develop into baby turtles using most folks think of birds nesting, the warmth of the nest. If you are lucky flowers blooming, and trees getting enough to find a nest, visit it often so new leaves as signature signs of you don’t miss the parade of baby turtles spring. The warmth of spring making their way to the water. brings activity to streams and Beavers make their home in most of the rivers as well. larger rivers and lakes in the Chicago Insect activity increases as the wa- area. Though evidence of beavers is ter warms. Look for spidery looking easy to identify (look for the chewed insects called water striders actually trunks of trees near the water) catching walking on top of the water. When the a glimpse of one is truly special. Two light is just right you will see six shad- factors make beavers hard to spot: they owy spots where its delicate feet touch are most active at night and can hold TAKE CARE: Walk slowly and evenly the surface with breaking the water their breath for a long time. Try to visit as you approach the stream’s edge – quick tension. The skittering movements of a an area where beaver live near dusk. small group of water striders often look Walk quietly near the stream and keenly movements and unexpected shadows can like a synchronized dance routine. listen, a nervous beaver may slap his tail on the water in disapproval if you interrupt viewing! Take this warning to Blue gills prepare their gravelly nests startle him. for spawning when the temperature of heart to get the best look at the critters that the shallows is approaching 75 degrees. The true reward in your visit to a Watch closely as the male fish defend stream’s edge during the spring is the live in and near the water. their nesting territories; it can be quite personal renewal you feel by being in a show. nature; the bonus will be the heron or wood duck lifting off the water or the It is not uncommon to see a snapping mink trying to secretly sneak into the turtle lumber onto land looking for a water’s refuge. U place to lay her eggs. After mating in the water, the female looks for a nest Nan is a long time stream explorer with location where a hole is easy to dig. She the Lake County Forest Preserves. will deposit up to 100 eggs in the nest, Turtle photo by Robert Visconti, cover the hole and return to the water. Wood Ducks by Mike UmbreitPage 10 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
  11. 11. Young Wild ExplorersRiver Otters by Denise CollinsAs winter slowly ends, all of nature Two or three babies are usually borneagerly awaits the coming of spring and to a litter in the early spring. Theanimals of all kinds prepare for their baby otters are called kits and areyoung to be born. This time of year, the helpless at birth. But soon they’llriver otters in the waterways of Northern be ready to learn everything theirIllinois choose their mates. Last year, at mother can teach them like how toGlacial Park in McHenry County, one swim and hunt. Mother otters have evenpair of otters found a deserted muskrat been known to catch and release prey soden and made it their home. their little ones can quickly improve their hunting skills. Otter dads rarely help.River otters, like so many animals, aresensitive to water pollution and will Otter kits grow quickly. When they’redisappear from areas with polluted water. about two months old they’ll startTheir new home in the wetlands of Gla- exploring outside their den. Threecial Park gave them plenty of space along months after that they’ll be hunting forthe winding Nippersink Creek. Otters are themselves. The young otters leave homecarnivorous. This means they eat other when they’re about twelve months oldanimals to survive. Their diet is mostly because by then, their mother has a newfish but they’ll eat just about anything litter of kits to raise. The young otters at Naturalist in a Box is a realistic,they find including eggs and young birds, Glacial Park will spend the spring, sum- hands on, quality environmentalshellfish, and insects. mer, and fall playing their otter games. education material for children In two years, they too will settle down developed by a MontessoriBesides hunting, otters spend most of the Teacher and conservationist. and raise their own families. Uspring, summer, and fall playing. Ottersplay more than most wild animals do.They wrestle, play tag with each other, Denise is the author of several novels and Open a boxand slide on the river banks. They’ll also children’s books and is a keen observer of the natural world. She lives at Glacial and explore...toss clamshells and fetch them just like a Park with her husband fetches sticks!Did You Know?• iver otter ears and noses can open and close just like our eyelids do? R This special feature is very useful for swimming underwater.• ey have extra long whiskers to help them feel their way through murky Th water?• iver otters, like skunks, are Mustelids? They both have stinky scent R glands that they use to mark their territory.• ou can learn more about river otters at: Y and_habitat/wildlife/river_otter.php Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 11
  12. 12. Making a Difference Meet by Cynthia Fox Sean Sha ffer And he hasn’t been alone in his efforts. “ew, gross!” reaction from the crowd, Organized by Friends of the Chicago what they don’t know is that he often River, this annual event inspires an throws the invasive plant in his salads at Sean Shaffer (above left) has been getting average of 4000 volunteers to head out home. his hands dirty (literally) at Ronan Park to worksites along the river to clean Some of Sean’s favorite Chicago River up and restore habitat. Sean has been for over a decade. As a volunteer Site Day memories are when he’s able to put a tireless leader in the effort, having down the loppers and teach something. Captain at Ronan Park for Chicago River trained, inspired and educated hundreds “One year”, he says, “we saw a coyote Day, Sean rolls up his sleeves every year to of volunteers to participate in Chicago on the other bank of the river so we River Day. do hands-on restoration work on behalf of stopped and talked about it and what As the 2009 recipient of Chicago it means that it’s there – being able to one of the state’s most important water- Audubon Society’s Protector of the show people that this is habitat and it is ways. Environment—Education Award, Sean wildlife, and it’s not scary.” Those are the brings a unique perspective to Chicago teachable moments he looks for. To volunteer with Sean, head over to the River Day. He explains that he is always When we asked Sean why he keeps Nature Center at 5801 N. Pulaski Road thinking of new and creative ways to coming back to volunteer at Chicago Chicago, IL 60646. To find out how to engage and connect his fellow volunteers River Day, he says “It’s a fun and worth- with nature. When working with volun- volunteer at Chicago River Day on May while day outside with like minded teer high school students, for example, people. You really get to see the differ- 14th, please visit: he says that “teens couldn’t be happier ence you make that day, and every time events/chicago_river_day with loppers and tools,” and that he uses you visit.” One of the best feelings, he that as a starting point to dig deeper to says, is “coming back to Ronan Park and get them to see the bigger picture. He having to search for Buckthorn – when hooks his audience – young and it used to be everywhere.” U old - right at the beginning by talking about one of Ronan When Sean is not volunteering at Chicago Park’s most wanted River Day, you can find him leading na- plants, garlic mustard, ture walks and showing kids the wonders and then eating it. of earthworms at the North Park Village Although he often Nature Center. gets an Page 12 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
  13. 13. The ancients held that four primalelements existed from which all other Today those same communities respond to the caress of fire as they When Fire andthings could trace their creation. Earth, have through the centuries. Flower-Air, Fire and Water each possessed ing increases, seed set is higher, theunique characteristics marking their plants grow robust and healthy, and asrelationship with the physical world.Air ruled ideas, earth that of physical a result the wildlife dependent upon that plant community also benefits. Water Mixmatter, fire the spark of intellect and Invasive shrubby brush and otherwater the deep emotions. exotic non-native species are set back by Ed Collins by periodic controlled fires. TheWhile in the world of philosophy the blackened ground warms faster inelementals rarely interacted with one the early spring sun promoting seedanother, this is certainly not the case in germination and plant emergence.the realm of ecological restoration. Herefire, water, air and earth form a sublime Even the river itself benefits frompartnership passionately expressed in the increased insect populations depen-art and science of prescribed burning. dent on healthy streamside plants communities. These in turn becomeEarth is represented by the prairie, the food source for fish, amphibianswoodland and wetland restorations and reptiles living in and aroundthat are a hallmark of our region. These the water. Plant debris entering thenatural communities require periodic stream becomes the detritus that feedsinteraction with wildfire to remain everything from fresh water mussels tohealthy. The speed of such fires are con- invertebrates.trolled by the prevailing winds on anygiven burn day. Finally it is water, in the So next time you see the annualform of fire breaks such as Nippersink flames of spring and fall in your localCreek, and used to create burn lines that forest preserve or municipal park,ultimately direct the course and move- know that this ecological rite is help-ment of the flames. ing to bring a vanishing landscape back to life from the ashes. UPrescribed fire is crucial to the health ofnearly every Midwestern natural com- Ed Collins is the Natural Resourcemunity type, including paradoxically,those found along streams and rivers. Manager with the McHenry CountyThe riparian marshes and sedge mead- Conservation District and project man-ows historically dotted the floodplains of ager of the Nippersink Re-meanderingthe Chicago Region evolving under thesculpting hand of landscape scale fires. project at Glacial Park. Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 13
  14. 14. Art and Soul by Kerry Leigh Meet Melissa, a woman who loves nature has a broad appeal to people water and mud. everywhere, I believe that my paintings She also loves butterflies and Rumi, and are particularly relevant to the people of once spent entire days at the wrong time Chicago. Much of what we know about of year searching for skunk cabbage. habitat restoration was developed right here, and we have Her first memories much to celebrate were very visual, in that!” and she was always coloring, every sur- Aldo Leopold, face around her. Monet and Robert Bateman were Her tolerant par- prime influences. ents were scientists Bateman and although her in particular wasArt today is caught on the horns of a dilemma first degree was in an artist with aas to its relevance. Photographers’ skill and biology, the visual strong environ- kept tugging at mental ethic and apassions in capturing stunning images are her and she took high standardescalating while at the same time ‘schools’ and classes in art. of accuracy.‘movements’ often declare nature art as When she was a Melissa’s paint- butterfly monitor ings are bold, rich,irrelevant, passé, derivative. I believe that it for The Nature Conservancy at Illinois full of depth, movement and life. Theyis this, the meeting of souls between the Beach State Park, Melissa began to really express a passionate understanding of understand the interactions of plants, the wholeness of life in a fragmentedartist, nature, and the viewer that make insects and soil. This was her moment world, and intimately reflect the soul ofnature art, and art in general vital and of crystallization, a moment where the the woman. richness, vibrancy and riotous colors ofvery relevant. Melissa has also begun pen and ink the natural world began to pour out of her in the medium of acrylics. botanical drawings, learning how to still — Melissa Pierson the artists’ hand. Her desire is not just As I looked at her work, she spoke to me for accuracy, but for these drawings to about what influenced her. retain an “aliveness” that many botanical Melissa said, “I feel very fortunate to live drawings strive for. U in an area where people are informed See Melissa’s work at: and dedicated to maintaining their natural heritage. While the beauty ofPage 14 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
  15. 15. Wild Landscaping by Bob Kirschner Here are a few especially important raingarden do’s and don’ts: Rain Gardens • O choose an area of your yard that slopes D away from the house, staying at least 10 feet Aren’t Only for Rain! away from your foundation (you don’t want the water seeping back into your basement). • O level the top of the garden’s encircling D berm to maximize the amount of rainwater captured. • O emphasize using native plants recom- D mended for rain gardens – they have deep roots that help break up tight clay soils and are well suited to wide fluctuations in A beautiful garden oasis in your yard that helps the environment? soil moisture. Consider a rain garden! • O consider height, color, texture, and D bloom season when selecting your plants. A rain garden is a shallow depression that’s excavated into the landscape Group species of plants together so their with a small raised berm or lip on the down slope side to temporarily trap beauty is more recognizable. After all, it rainwater runoff. Is there a good spot for a rain garden in your yard? If your IS a garden! home has roof gutters and downspouts, then the answer is probably “yes” since redirected downspout water is an easy way to “water” your • ON’T site your rain garden where water D rain garden. ponds after a rainfall. Those soils are already “plugged” and water infiltration rates will Rain gardens allow rainwater to slowly soak into the ground, helping to be low. recharge aquifers and reduce flooding by limiting the storm water runoff that drains into our sewers. As the rainwater travels through the garden • ON’T use seed to plant your rain garden; D soil, urban pollutants are filtered out and so our water is cleansed keeping use live plants or plant divisions instead. pollution from our streams and lakes. They also provide bird, butterfly and Seed will wash away. dragonfly habitat. • ON’T build a rain garden that’s too small D In September 2009, the Chicago Botanic Garden opened its new Plant or too big; consult the publication cited to Conservation Science Center with a one-acre Rainwater Glen where you determine the best size. Many residential rain can see many species of native plants that are great candidates for use in gardens are between 100 and 300 square feet. rain gardens. • ON’T worry about mosquitoes breeding D For more information download: Rain Gardens: A How-To Manual for in your rain garden. A properly designed rain Homeowners at U garden will drain most of its water within a few hours to a day (but mosquitoes need a Bob Kirschner is the Curator of Aquatic Plant & Urban Lake Studies at the week or more of standing water to lay and Chicago Botanic Garden. hatch their eggs).Photo courtesy of Integrated Lakes Management Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 15
  16. 16. Managing Our Lakes and Ponds by Keith Gray Our Resources In nature, water bodies accumulate sedi- plan. Aluminum sulfate, or other clay ment and nutrients over centuries before based products with free radicals, tie up they become home to algae and heavy the phosphorus dissolved in the water, aquatic growth. In urban areas like the and make it unavailable for algal con- Chicago region, lakes and ponds often sumption. If native aquatic plants are become nutrient rich and overgrown introduced, their root systems stabilize much more quickly. Managing these the soil, produce oxygen, and create resources so that they are attractive, habitat for organisms that actually feed functional, and even more importantly, on algae. a safe habitat for desirable wildlife can Once the phosphorous is settled out of be a challenge. the water column it can re-dissolve into Continuing to treat symptoms instead of the water if there is not enough oxygen. Other ways to reduce phosphorus addressing the cause of nuisance (aquat- Aerators (fountains and diffusers) do a in the water include: ic) growth might get short-term results, great job of mixing, and therefore oxy- but long term it’s costly because the genating a pond, which keeps the phos- • iscouraging geese, whose waste is d problem never really goes away. Progres- phorus in the sediment and unavailable very nutrient rich; sive, responsible companies should con- for algae. In response to the greater need • liminating phosphorus in lawn e sider options aside from the traditional for non-chemical solutions, manufactur- fertilizers (the middle number chemical applications. Aquatic resource ers have developed innovative equip- should be ‘0’on the label); managers are looking at the claims made ment to assist in these tasks. Tools on by the sellers of enzymes and bacteria to these machines can be interchanged to • educing erosion in the watershed, r improve water quality, but phosphorus is harvest aquatic growth, remove sedi- specifically along the shoreline elemental, and no matter what you do, ment, or access places to do stabiliza- where nutrient rich soil accumulate it will always be phosphorus. Further tion work that couldn’t be accessed in the lake and reduce water depth, studies are needed to get a better idea of previously. For ponds and sections of leading to conditions (nutrients, their potential for commercial use. water where access in a developed area sunlight, warmer water) that is tough, these options go a long way to promote algae growth; and Since phosphorus is a leading cause of economically address water management unsightly (and potentially toxic) algae • emoving the sediment and/or r proactively. U blooms, controlling phosphorus is a aquatic growth from the water logical step in a proactive management body. Keith is secretary for Mettawa Open Lands Assoc., a board member for National Ecological Contractors Assoc., and Liberty Prairie Conservancy. He is also the founder of an environmental laboratory and the president of Integrated Lakes Management.Page 16 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
  17. 17. I first read these words when I had not yet “grown up” myself, but they struckme even then as profoundly insightful. I was at the University at the time, Seasonalimmersed in Latin names of stream fishes and aquatic insects, the anatomy ofpondweeds, concepts of nutrient cycles and river ecology, darter zoogeography.But with these words I was immediately transported to an earlier classroom ofendless summer days on my beloved Kishwaukee River, building a portfolio Musingsof pure experience that would later foster scientific curiosity and eventually a Spirit of Place/career. Place of SpiritRivers are powerful formative agents. In those days there was little worry thatkids with access to a river would ever suffer from nature deficit disorder. Whenschool let out in early June, it was down to the river for the next three months,fishing, swimming, catching crayfish, and daydreaming. Each morning re-quired a bike ride down to its banks to see how the river had changed over-night. Dry spells revealed the mysteries of a previously hidden river bed that Ihad only imagined my lure dancing across. Spring flows drove home the river’sraw power, once nearly claiming this young swimmer while trying to reach an Riverisland during April high water. The drone of late summer cicadas in the ancientsilver maples, the smell of drying algae and rotting September cottonwoodleaves, the magic of daybreak on a sultry July morning while waiting for the Schooling By John Rognerrod tip to twitch - all high definition memories that intervening years of studyand professional practice have not dimmed. “When I call to mind my earliest impressions,These are more than just childhood diversions and fodder for middle-aged nos-talgia. Early and direct outdoor experiences lead to lifelong pastimes and career I wonder whether the process ordinarily referredpaths. They also create the fertile ground for what eventually grows into a landethic - the idea that there is a right and a wrong in how we treat our lands and to as growing up is not actually a process ofwaters, and a commitment to act. growing down; whether experience… is notThis river world did have limits. Just beyond the town’s last bridge crossingwas the wastewater treatment plan, but treatment seemed secondary to simple actually a progressive dilution of the essentials bycollection and discharge. What I remember is froth and foam from bank tobank, past the bend and out of sight. This was the end of our river playground the trivialities of living.”- you just didn’t go any further downriver.It seemed a travesty to me that we would pour suds into living waters that were —Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanachome to such magnificent creatures as northern pike, softshell turtles and, asI would learn much later, banded darters. At the time it just seemed wrong.But in other places it was far worse. These were the days when rivers actu-ally caught fire. Fortunately there were powerful voices speaking out againstenvironmental desecration, people like Rachel Carson who, grounded in earlyexperiences and later armed with science and free speech, persuaded Congressand a country that we needed to change course. Americans finallysaid “enough”.The years that followed produced the most remarkable and progressive set ofenvironmental laws passed by any nation. Congress decreed that Americanshad rights to things like clean water, clean air, and biological diversity. Wehave a long way to go. But suds no longer pour out of that treatment plantand the Kishwaukee River remains one of the most biologically diverse streams in Illinois. And I have no doubt that it still creates magical afternoons andcareer paths for kids fortunate enough to live within a bike ride of its banks. UJohn is works as the assistant director of the Illinois Department of NaturalResources and still loves to muck about in rivers. Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011 | Page 17
  18. 18. Wild Mart Green Fire Documentary Save Money and Energy Glacier Oaks Nursery The Center for Humans and Nature will host Make energy use in your home or business the Chicago public premiere of Green Fire: Healing the Earth more efficient and affordable with the Nicor Aldo Leopold and the Land Ethic in the With Gas Energy Efficiency Program. 21st Century. Details coming soon. Visit RootKeeper™ the Center’s website to learn more about the To learn more, visit our website. Native Trees film and other Center projects. 815-943-8733 Green Renovation Green Gift Giving Discover Nature Our gardens are asleep and we turn our attention to Winter fancies! Whimsical Since 1985, C&M Wilkins have been creations for home and garden. Earth making homeowners dreams come true. As friendly gift baskets, trash to treasure Chicagoland’s certified green renovators Here is where you can buy or rent a canoe garden art and one-of-a-kind finds make and cabinetry company, owners Charlie or kayak, find guide books, a car top perfect presents for the eco-conscious gift and Maggie Wilkins keep their jobs on carrier, get your craft repaired, paddling giver. Include a Prairie Godmothers gift time and in budget— no job is too large accessories of all kinds, and our 70 years certificate to guarantee earth friendly gar- or small. of practical experience. den spaces in the Spring! 708.205.5126. Spiritual and Life Renewal Custom Illustration Naturalist in a Box Wish your life had a reset button? It exists! Just call, Naturalist in a box is realistic, hands on, Renewal in the Wilderness offers canoe/ she can draw it! quality environmental education material kayak trips of spiritual and life renewal. for children developed by a Montessori Lynda Wallis Effective for over 6000 years! teacher and conservationist. 847-487-1752 Open a box and explore… Page 18 | Way of the WILDS | Spring 2011
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