Have you ever heard of Portage Woods? Let me give you a little history on it. It is thought to be the birthplace of Chicago because of the first encounter of French explorers Père Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet back in 1673. They passed by there by mistake, trying to find the “Great Lake.” Because of this new and convenient route that connected the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico by linking Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River, Chicago rapidly became a metropolis. Portage Woods is one of only two National Historic Sites in Illinois that is not owned by the National Park Service; this is why it is so important.
Portage Woods does not have a steward, but a small and mighty group of volunteers gather together at the end of every month to work on getting invasive species out. On the morning of Saturday May 28th, they all gathered together at Portage Woods to plant over 500 native Blue Flag Iris; shrubs, such as Dark Green Rush and Nodding Bulrush; and sedges, like Common Lake Sedge and Brown Fox Sedge. It was a project funded by Phillip Dowd.
This project had three different stages. The first stage was to cut all invasives around and in the planting area. The second stage was to herbicide all the burdock. And the last stage was to plant and cage in the plants to protect them from getting eaten by the deer. As time passes by, we hope that these sedges and rushes attract butterflies, moths, and birds.
We put the spotlight on some of the incredible volunteers that came out – check it out below!
Alessandra is a volunteer that just recently joined the group at Portage Woods. She is a freshman at Queen of Peace High School. After learning about opportunities in school, she joined the Environmental Task Force, which is an extracurricular club at Queen of Peace High School that took the initiative to adopt Portage Woods. After coming out on a few work days, she has become interested in careers in environmental science.
Jim comes out to Portage Woods to walk the Salt Creek trail system with his wife or to ride his bike. One day while riding his bike, he heard a noise coming from somewhere in the woods, so he decided to go and see what was going on. He saw the volunteer signs that led him to the volunteer group that goes out the last Saturday of each month. This was six years ago and he’s been a volunteer ever since! Jim’s whole family has a passion for the outdoors. So, a few months ago Jim brought his son to a work day, getting his family involved in the restoration projects.
Liz began volunteering at Portage Woods back in 2009 after she took one of the history tours. She doesn’t only volunteer out in the forest preserves of Cook County, but at animal shelters as well. She enjoys bird watching during her free time and loves spending time outdoors because she finds it relaxing. She is very excited to see the shrubs planted today grow!
Elise began volunteering at Portage Woods after she took one of the history tours offered. She started volunteering in late September 2015. She not only volunteers at Portage Woods, but also at Little Red School House. Being out in nature has been part of her life since she was a little girl. She loves it! She considers the work she does out in the woods to be her workout. She enjoys the work and feels she is making a difference by helping.
If you are ever interested in being part of the volunteer group at Portage Woods, contact Iza Redlinski at email@example.com.
By Gloria Orozco
Assistant Crew Manager, Friends of the Forest Preserves