Volunteers help Libertyville Twp. restore land to native state
Volunteers took advantage of perfect planting conditions Saturday to advance Libertyville Township's project to restore farm land to its native state.
About 25 volunteers worked the earth to get a variety of mostly oak trees in the ground as a key part of the restoration of rolling fields south of Casey Road near Almond Road to how they looked centuries ago.
"It's a beautiful day and it's for trees. Why not?" said Grayslake resident Ann Kohler, as she and Damon Cederberg, the township's open space field coordinator, backfilled a pre-dug hole.
The township is pursuing a long-term plan to restore 303 acres of the Donnelley Prairies and Oaks Preserve to native prairies, wetlands and savannas. Saturday's effort resulted in most of the 125 native trees delivered to the site two weeks ago being in their new permanent home.
"Our job today was to make sure we were not planting our trees too deep," Cederberg said. "It sets the tree up for a whole host of negative conditions."
The volunteer work day followed extensive advance planning, which included soil analysis and DNA typing of the trees to ensure they were local to the area and correct for the site.
Sarah Surroz, executive director of Conserve Lake County, said trees are like puppies and need the proper space and support.
"You want to get the right type for the home," she said. "Then you prepare the home. A little investment up front provides years and years of enjoyment."
Several partners, including the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, which provided a grant of $11,450, are involved it the effort. The township project is part of a Morton-led initiative to protect and enhance oak ecosystems throughout northern Illinois.
Lia Boucek and her father, Chuck, of Grayslake were among the volunteers. Lia took advanced environmental science at Grayslake Central High School and was applying the work day hours to her required National Honor Society community service work.
"We're trying to plant trees to connect the old growth forests and create corridors," for wildlife, she said.
Also on site were Natalie Drayton of Riverwoods and her 5-year old daughter, Jade.
"Every time I volunteer, I bring her with. I want my kids to learn about nature," said Drayton.
Jade did just that, encountering a nest of field mice and some frogs in the planting hole.
"They were very cute," she reported.