Note from the CSI Chair
By Joann Podkul
During 2009, CSI members took on additional responsibilities to participate in the Dunes Bio-Blitz, the Burnham Plan Centennial, the 2nd Annual 10th Ward Green Summit, Chicago Artists' Month and to host a bus tour of significant natural areas on the Illinois side for our Indiana partners.
While it might appear that 2010 will be a little less hectic by comparison, the major focus on the "Leave No Child Inside" theme could keep us all quite busy. Plans are already underway to hold a teacher conference and a family event in June, the month dedicated to the program.
However, as the accompanying article by Cassandra Cannon indicates, isn't there a child in each of us ready to enjoy the outdoors – the woods, the lakes, the riverbanks, the prairies? With that in mind, perhaps we should let 2010 be the year we seek out veterans, seniors, church-groups, and all sorts of yet untapped organizations to broaden the commitment to "Leave No One Inside."
Southeast Chicago Natural Areas Tour
By Jerry Attere, WRD Environmental
You may have heard this phrase before – “the Calumet region holds some of the most significant natural areas in the upper Midwest,” but have you actually visited some of them? On October 22, 2009, 43 participants from Illinois and Indiana were able to do just that. Members of the Calumet Stewardship Initiative hosted a bus tour of some of these ecologically significant natural areas in southeast Chicago. The tour catered to stewards and land managers from northwest Indiana and was essentially a return leg of a tour of northwest Indiana natural areas that took place on September 22, 2008.
Graciously sponsored by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the tour began with a hike through Hegewisch Marsh to observe the many changes that have occurred since the site received National Coastal Wetlands Conservation funding for restoration in 2006. Nicole Kamins, Program Director for the Chicago Department of Environment’s Calumet Initiative, pointed out key results from the project, such as non-native and invasive plant species removal, the installation of native seed materials, the establishment of 1.2 miles of mulched trails, and the installation of 375 native trees and 75 native shrubs to date. The group then enjoyed a hike through Powderhorn Prairie – a dune and swale site with over 270 species of plants. Alice Brandon, Conservation Director from Friends of the Forest Preserves, and her volunteer stewards have been focusing on two dunes since 2006. They have effectively cleared invasive plant species including buckthorn, as well as reducing native shrubs that are too dense due to lack of fire on site.
A brief lunch was spent under a picnic shelter on the western shore of Wolf Lake due to inclement weather. While participants ate, Mike Boos, President of the Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative, provided a synopsis of the lake’s history. With approximately 804 total acres of surface water (419 acres in Illinois and 385 in Indiana), the lake has undergone various forms of environmental damage, such as filling for development, and urban runoff. Despite this, the lake is a haven for numerous fish species, like endangered lake sturgeon and state-threatened banded killifish, as well as providing nesting sites for birds like the endangered black-crowned night heron and yellow headed blackbird.
The next half hour was spent driving by notable sites, including Eggers Woods, Hyde Lake Wetlands, Indian Ridge Marsh, Heron Pond, and Big Marsh. Restoration efforts are slated to commence at Indian Ridge Marsh in the summer of 2010.
Participants received a rare treat on this tour – a clear, unobstructed view of Lake Calumet from Harborside International Golf Center. The lake remains a vital habitat for birds and fish in the region.
The last stop was Beaubien Woods Forest Preserve, managed by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County in partnership with the Field Museum and the Calumet Stewardship Initiative. This 80 acre wetland is home to 165 bird species that have been identified by ornithologist Doug Stotz of the Field Museum. Laurel Ross, Urban Conservation Director at the Field Museum, led a hike to see the areas that have undergone restoration. A lack of regular fire management has allowed brush to choke the site, but with regular clearing of invasive woody and herbaceous plant species by volunteer stewards and students, the site is slowly but surely returning to mirror what it may have been like long ago. The Field Museum adopted this site in 2005 to provide a venue for stewardship projects for students from Mighty Acorns, Earth Force, and Calumet Is My Backyard (CIMBY).
The sites visited on the tour were chosen to show the variety and size of some important natural areas that exist in southeast Chicago. In addition, they demonstrate how partnership and shared best management practices can transform the quality of wetlands and other open spaces on a regional scale. Much is to be learned from one another and much remains to be done. 2010 therefore presents us with a renewed opportunity to join forces and resume our efforts to not only preserve these valuable habitats for nature, but to provide recreational and educational benefits to the community.
Mark Bouman of Chicago State University sets the context of the Calumet region at Hegewisch Marsh. (Photo credit: Kevin Murphy)
CSI Indiana to Illinois bus Trip - October 22, 2009
By Linda Cook, CSI Membership Committee Chair
Many thank-yous go out to the planners and presenters on this year’s environmental sites tour. Last year’s tour took place on a warm, sunny day ten days after a flood devastated many areas of Northwest Indiana. The weather this year was cold and rainy. We didn’t mind since the presentations and sites made the day’s outing worth every minute.
My husband, Richard, and I enjoyed meeting new participants and catching up with others we have been acquainted with for years. The guests were impressed with the graciousness of our partners and the treats we all provided for each other during the day.
I met fellow Master Gardeners from Lake and Porter Counties in Indiana. I am the Newby in the extension service group since I finished classes in June, and we shared our recent stewardship experiences. We also shared information on some of the natural wonders in both states. As we said our good-byes, these new friends expressed their thanks for a great tour and their hopes that they can be a part of another experience in 2010.
Alice Brandon of Friends of the Forest Preserves describes stewardship work at one of the Powderhorn Prairies dunes. (Photo credit: Kevin Murphy)