Grant helps Fremont Township create conservation campus
A modest cash grant will be a big help for the volunteer initiative that has transformed a weedy garden patch in Fremont Township into a conservation campus of sorts.
Township officials will use the $6,295 mainly for supplies, such as erosion blankets, seeds and plants to replace 1.25 acres of turf near the community garden on Route 60 near Fremont Center Road.
"It's the perfect spot for planting natives and they'll help clean and hold the water," said Alicia Dodd, caretaker of the facility that has grown under her stewardship to include several educational environmental elements in addition to fresh organic herbs and vegetables for the township food pantry.
"The more we can do on our properties to manage the water, the less the sewers have to deal with. We all should take responsibility," Dodd said.
Fremont Township was one of 25 recipients of up to $10,000 for projects to protect and improve open space through the ComEd Green Region Program, operated in partnership with Openlands, one of the oldest conservation groups in the U.S.
The program has had "quite lot of impact" in ComEd's northeastern Illinois service area, according to Aimee Collins, Openlands conservation manager. The focus this year is to support the habitats of birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
In Fremont Township, the grant will be used for pollinator-friendly plants to include native seed species, 500 wildflowers, 15 trees and 25 shrubs. The grant would "significantly advance a public open space mission into a government center not originally designed for an ecosystem preserve focus," according to the township's application.
"It will save us from mowing (and) it will be good for the environment," township Supervisor Diana O'Kelly said. "We're trying to be an example of what government can be."
Dodd has been a tireless force and advocate the past three years, corralling volunteers and connecting with Scouts, students, community and corporate groups on a variety of projects and improvements.
Last summer, a kids' shelter was constructed using a mix of clay and sand known as cob, as an example of sustainable building. A few weeks ago, a Mundelein High School class installed solar panels and an Eagle Scout candidate is at work on a shallow creek.
"It was just weeds, then Alicia walked into my life," O'Kelly said of the site. "It really is a jewel in Lake County."
Dodd said a big part of organic gardening is attracting insects that help do the job better.
"Two years from now, all these areas of grass could be covered with flowers," she said.