By Heather, Certified Workday Leader; Tony, Certified Workday Leader; and Josh, Field Organizer-North, Friends of the Forest Preserves
Forest Glen Forest Preserve is a wonderful natural habitat located in the far northwest side of Chicago just outside the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Tucked in between the Metra tracks, highway 94, and a quiet suburban-like neighborhood, the preserve has remained relatively untouched for as long as the city has built itself around it. Under the direction of the Centennial Volunteers, a group of volunteers have taken to the challenge of restoring this preserve to health, and have succeeded in not only starting to turn around years of degradation by invasive species and human neglect, but have also brought the local community together in support of the cause.
Forest Glen Forest Preserve is a small but important habitat that is part of the North Branch string of preserves. The preserve is dissected by the Chicago River and butts up against LaBagh Woods, which is the last preserve in the North Branch before the urban sprawl of Chicago engulfs the river. It is a very important ecosystem for local flora, including massive swamp white and bur Oaks. Local fauna include migratory and nesting birds, as well as wonderful native species like the snapping turtle, DeKay’s brown and plains garter snakes, and the monarch butterfly, amongst others. Unfortunately, like a lot of preserves in the area, it has been taken over by persistent and destructive invasive species like European buckthorn, garlic mustard, and lesser celandine… as well as being the victim of human induced degradation…the most destructive invasive species. Fortunately, a trusty restoration coordinator from Friends of the Forest Preserves, Josh Coles, took it upon us to start working at the site last year and the Forest Glen restoration project was born. With the help of the site steward, Jonathan Sladek, we scouted high quality areas to start our work and pushed forward with an ever-evolving plan to make Forest Glen a special and inviting place for the community. Since the first workday on April 9th 2016, we have made a staggering number of accomplishments thanks to great local volunteer and community support:
– We have cut nearly 5 acres of buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other invasive brush in multiple quality areas in the preserve.
– We have collected thousands of native seeds from approximately 20 species throughout spring through fall.
– We became part of the North Branch Seed Policy (thanks to the help of a number of North Branch Restoration Project stewards) and dispersed those seeds to bring much needed diversity to the site.
– The site received its first prescribed burn in March of 2017, which was a great success.
– Friends of the Chicago River taught us how to test our water quality and teach us about water conservation (soon they will be teaching us about erosion blankets for gullies along the river).
– Friends of the Forest Preserves hosted multiple corporate team building days to get even more work done between weekend workdays.
– We started working with the Forest Glen community members in restoring a part of the Forest Glen near homes with some amazing old oaks!
– Built an important and ambitious base of volunteers who cheerfully come out to each workday, rain or shine, and make the experience of being at the site ever more exciting and rewarding.
With the restoration projects one-year anniversary under our belts, we have great momentum in tow for the future of Forest Glen. We plan to finish up the strenuous clearing of buckthorn from the remnant oak woodland near the bike path, continue our work in the beautiful area at the homes near Lansing Ave, and we will begin work along the river and two ponds hidden in the middle of the preserve. This is just the tip of the iceberg as much more work is needed through the 150 acres of Forest Glen. We look forward to our workdays in the future and look forward to our time with all the wonderful volunteers and stewards. Please join us sometime!
The Forest Glen restoration project is celebrating their one-year anniversary on Sunday, April 9th. Tony (far left) and Heather (kneeling) have been part of the project since day one!
Before and after photo of a thick wall of buckthorn removed along Lansing Ave.