Restoration work and conservation projects are a priority of the Oswegoland Park District and are ongoing throughout the year.
Dave Margolis, Oswegoland Park District's Natural Resource Manager, works with Park District staff, a team of conservation volunteers, scouts, high school students, and elementary school children on a variety of conservation projects that not only benefit our parks and natural areas, but also teach the value of conservation and caring for our planet. Read Dave's article in the Illinois Parks and Recreation publication.
Waubonsie Creek Watershed
Currently our restoration focus has been on the west side of the creek between Old Post Road and Route 34, as well as the Waubonsie Wetland area on the east side of the creek across from the Police Station. We have been doing intensive seeding and planting of native prairie grasses and forbs (flowers). We have also initiated a limited herbicide application program to help eradicate non native plants.
This years’ restoration work will focus on the dredge hills that line the creek from the farming days going back to the late 1800’s. We’re going to try and establish prairie back along the creek in these degraded areas that are close to 100% sand; the sand coming from the creek bottom. This winter we are hoping to try a hydro-seeding application of the site using native grasses and forbs with a sticker that will adhere to the ground while resisting the erosion effects of snow, ice and wind. We are also going to continue to establish native wetland plants in the Waubonsie Wetland and work north towards the tennis courts. We will be doing more intensive clearing in the box elder barrens along the creek that will allow us to return sunlight to the ground, remove invasive plants while allowing us to incorporate native grasses, forbs and shrubs more indicative of the site. Currently we are utilizing the horticulture and environmental science students from Oswego East and Oswego High Schools, and Boulder Hill Elementary to assist Oswegoland Park District staff with this work.
In Cooks Savanna we will continue to open up that woodlands to allow more sunlight to filter through the canopy to the forest floor. Garlic Mustard is still an entrenched non native plant that we will be battling for a while. This summer we will be extending the perimeter of the woods out into the athletic fields and with the help of Old Post Elementary students we will be establishing prairie along the edge of the woods. This restoration work, while providing a natural buffer between the woods and athletic fields will represent what would have actually been there.
Several area scouting groups have assisted with the removal of garlic mustard from the Cooks site. Students from Old Post Elementary also assist with garlic mustard removal.
Future plans beyond the area between Old Post Road and Route 34 include expanding the prairie north past Old Post up to Douglas Road and beyond towards Briarcliff.
Our prescribed burn program includes burning various portions of this watershed in the fall and the spring. We will continue to incorporated prescribe burns in the management of this watershed.
Lakeview/Morgan Creek Natural Areas
This area has attracted much attention and has garnered much attention from the Oswegoland Park District conservation staff. Starting with the narrow slough area off of Grove Road we have been doing restoration work all the way to the Morgan Creek detention area.
We divide this site into two, long linear areas for prescribed burn purposes. We don’t burn along the Bartlett Lake shoreline side in the fall because we don’t want to have the shoreline exposed throughout the winter for erosion purposes. We try to burn the shoreline side in the spring so that the vegetation returns which will prohibit any erosion possibilities. We have been actively planting throughout this whole site utilizing Oswegoland Park District volunteers, Oswego High School Students, service learning students and a newly formed coalition of Lakeview residents who are becoming stewards of the site.
We have been actively working the area know as the "Dead Zone" for three years with positive results. We have been planting acid tolerant wetland and prairie plants in experimental plots as well as using a new fertilizing management plan to start bringing some semblance of a wetland to that degraded site. We are experimenting with sod on the site as well. We are currently planning more invasive plant removal and some areas that were once choked with clumps of invasive plants now have site lines all the way to the Lake and across the whole wetland. In the past there was so much invasive shrub and tree growth the lake nor the other side of the wetland was visible.
Oswegoland Park District Nursery
Oswegoland Park District staff have been actively growing their own plant material for several years. Besides utilizing the high school greenhouses, the staff have constructed a nursery behind Prairie Point Center that includes a small hoop house, a shade house and all the native growing beds.
Northern Illinois Food
This project was started in the spring of 2007 as a Northern Illinois Food Bank Garden. The fresh produce that was grown out of this garden went to the Kendall County Food Pantry located in the Farm Bureau Agency in Yorkville. The garden produces over 1,000 pounds of produce annually for needy families throughout the county. View the Pantry Garden brochure.
High School Involvement
The high schools have been playing a vital role in assisting the Oswegoland Park District with its conservation efforts. Both schools allow the district to grow native plants in their nurseries and the horticulture students actually do much of the propagation work. The students assist staff with seed collection each fall, seed processing and storage in the winter, and propagation work in the spring.
The students also assist staff with invasive plant removal in the winter. In the spring horticulture students assist staff with planting native plants throughout the district with the plants that were grown from the seed collected the previous fall.
Elementary School Involvement
The younger students have begun to participate in the districts conservation efforts exhibiting a work ethic far beyond their years. 4th through 6th graders are assisting staff with invasive plant removal throughout the district at sites such as the Fox River and along Waubonsie Creek. They use the same hand tools as the high school students and Oswegoland Park District staff and are adept and eager workers.
A program to put prairies, wetlands and woodlands on Oswego school yards has been undertaken, with the goal to establish natural areas right outside the school. This will provide many benefits, including having areas for nature exploration, places for classes to hold class and allow the teachers to find unique ways to incorporate nature into all aspects of curriculum. Natural areas around the schools also will help with storm water retention, reduce mowing, watering, fertilizing and more importantly decrease the use of herbicides. Naturalizing the school grounds also allows for students and parents alike to construct the site thereby having some ownership. Schools that have adapted this program include: Fox Chase, Churchill Elementary and Churchill Preschool, Traughber, Homestead, and Boulder Hill.
Currently Oswegoland Park District conservation staff offer classes in native plant landscaping, rain gardens, and living a green lifestyle. Staff have begun offering night hikes at Saw Wee Kee park, a 150 acre linear natural area along the Fox River. Springtime means that staff will be leading wildflower walks out at Waa Kee Sha Woods.
Oswegoland Park District staff has also developed an ecology program that was incorporated within both high schools horticulture curriculum. This ecology program coincided with the field work the horticulture students were doing with the district. This essentially combined the properties of floral industry botany and applications to natural resource management practices.
Several Eagle projects have been completed with the Oswegoland Park District. These projects have included: planting native prairie plants, shrubs and trees in district natural areas, and building and planting native plant raised beds behind the Prairie Point Center. These growing beds are for the purpose of plant identification, display and a source for seed.