Winter Works for Ecological Restoration

Workers remove woody invasive species at Wampum Lake Woods.

Improving and protecting the Chicago River system as a natural blue-green corridor includes restoration of the ecological health of the land within the Chicago/Calumet River watershed as well as in the water. While this work happens all year, some of the most important restoration work occurs during the winter season.

In partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC), Friends’ Conservation Programs Manager Maggie Jones works with FPCC staff to find the optimum sites for Friends’ restoration work, looking for habitat improvement opportunities that increase turtle nesting areas or identifying open spaces that need attention in order to establish a healthy native plant community. Friends’ works with volunteers and contractors such as Stantec, Natural Resource Management, Inc, and Davey Resource Group to implement the plans we develop in collaboration with the FPCC and our other partners such as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The removal of woody invasive species and low-quality trees is primarily targeted to happen during the winter months. Frozen ground presents the best conditions for restoration work that requires large equipment that could damage soil and plants during the growing season. Our contractors closely monitor site conditions to be able to quickly mobilize when the conditions allow for work.

An area of Wampum Lake Woods before and after woody species removal. 

“One of the best ways we can return health to the river and our forest preserves is through the investment of foundations and government partnerships such as the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund into landscape scale restoration,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. “Once the heavy lifting is completed by dedicated crews with heavy equipment we can maintain the sites with FPCC staff and volunteer support. The more grants we get, the sooner we can transform our natural landscapes into healthy, functioning ecosystems that support people and wildlife and absorb valuable rainwater.”

Ecological restoration (before and after) in the Palos trail system on west 107th Street. 

Friends, the FPCC, and Davey are planning to start work this winter on a 129-acre restoration project at Country Lane Woods as part of or continuing work in the open spaces around Crooked Creek. This work builds on the projects Friends and the FPCC have completed over the past several years in the Palos-Sag Valley region; restoring hundreds of acres of forest preserves in the Crooked Creek watershed as well as helping to remove a series of fish barriers to reconnect Mill Creek to the Cal-Sag Channel at McClaughrey Springs Woods. The Country Lane Woods portion of the ongoing Crooked Creek restoration adds to a recently completed 242-acre restoration of the Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve by the FPCC which encompassed an additional 6.3 miles of Crooked Creek’s headwaters reaches. 

Keep an eye on Friends’ social media pages and our website for updates on all of our restoration work. We look forward to getting back into the woods with our restoration and monitoring volunteers as soon as we can.