Do something for the earth (and yourself) at forest preserve volunteer workdays
New Year's resolutions traditionally focus on ways to become a better you.
I'm going to lose weight. I'm going to exercise more. I'm going to spend more time with my family.
The folks at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County hear you and have a way to help do all that while also aiding the environment by volunteering to remove invasive plants or collect seeds during Volunteer Restoration Workdays.
The district sponsors such workdays nearly every weekend at one of 13 different sites and, yes, there's plenty to do even in winter.
Work in the dormant season usually entails removing invasive vegetation such as honeysuckle or buckthorn, while the fall season is more about planting seeds and documenting unusual activity.
The district provides all the tools you need and a steward to help every step of the way.
The stewards help familiarize volunteers with specific sites and explain safety precautions, providing gloves and glasses.
Carl Strang, a steward at St. James Farm Forest Preserve near Warrenville, said the work typically involves cutting down woody plants and building brush piles. As simple as it sounds, it has a great impact on the preserves.
"Seeing the response of native plants after the invasive plants are removed is highly satisfying," Strang said.
A work day lasts about three hours -- usually starting at 9 a.m. and ending by noon -- and often includes snack breaks. Anyone 8 and older is welcome, but those younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Stewardship Program Coordinator Cindy Hedges said the number of volunteers varies from day to day, usually from a low of five to a high of around 20. Year-round, there are roughly 2,000 volunteers who come and go, and 20 stewards.
The work not only helps create biodiversity, but also comes with an educational aspect.
"It's about alerting people to what's available in their local area," Hedges said. "People come in and have no idea that these beautiful treasures are right within their own backyard."
And if education isn't enough to get you out into the preserves, take solace in the fact that three hours in nature can regenerate the mind and body and reduce stress levels.
Hedges works with the volunteer stewards, who each run their own site. They often work in the preserves at times that aren't advertised, so willing volunteers can contact the stewards to set up a time that works for them, Hedges said.
The district asks that volunteers register online or by calling (630) 206-9630 at least five days in advance.
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Where to volunteer
Here's where to find Volunteer Restoration Workdays this month. All sessions run from 9 a.m. to noon. To register, visit dupageforest.org or call (630) 206-9630.
• Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-12, at the 81-acre Maple Grove Forest Preserve on the north side of Maple Avenue about two miles east of Belmont Road and one mile west of Dunham Road in Downers Grove.
• Sunday, Jan. 12, at the 1,829-acre Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve on the north side of 83rd Street about a half-mile west of Book Road in Naperville.
• Saturday, Jan. 18, at the 255-acre Churchill Woods Forest Preserve on the south side of St. Charles Road a half-mile west of Route 53 in Glen Ellyn.
• Saturday, Jan. 18, at Springbrook Prairie.
• Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 18 and 19, at Maple Grove.