Nine Naperville parks will get a natural facelift

  • Will-O-Way Park is among nine of the 137 parks in Naperville that will see a new meadow beginning this year to cut mowing costs and incorporate more native prairie plants.

      Will-O-Way Park is among nine of the 137 parks in Naperville that will see a new meadow beginning this year to cut mowing costs and incorporate more native prairie plants. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Century Farms Park in Naperville will be part of the Park Meadow Project, which will convert some regular grass in low-lying water drainage areas into a meadow with native plants that require less mowing and maintenance.

      Century Farms Park in Naperville will be part of the Park Meadow Project, which will convert some regular grass in low-lying water drainage areas into a meadow with native plants that require less mowing and maintenance. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted3/5/2019 5:30 AM

Water drainage areas at nine Naperville parks soon will look more like nature intended.

Naperville Park District, in what it has termed the Park Meadow Project, is converting regular grass to meadows with low prairie plantings and native wildflowers as a way to promote environmental stewardship and save on mowing.

 

Work is set to begin this month or next to remove grass and invasive growth in the selected areas, where crews then will plant a native Midwestern prairie mix and tend it until it's established. Kevin Finnegan, director of parks, said the new plants should be in full bloom by 2022.

"With their deep roots, native plants help absorb and filter stormwater, cleaning it before it reaches our rivers," Finnegan said in a news release. "The plants also provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife."

Meadows are set to be installed or expanded on eight total acres in the following parks: Ashbury Greenway, Bailey Hobson Woods Park, Brook Crossings, Buttonwood Park, Century Farms Park, Knoch Knolls Park, Olesen Estates, Willowgate Square and Wil-O-Way Park.

Sites were chosen because they typically are used for stormwater retention -- not active recreation -- and could benefit from the environmental upsides of native plants.

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"We have a number of areas where we have a lot of turf grass that we need to mow," said Brad Wilson, director of recreation. "Some of those areas tend to be wet, and it's hard for the mowers to be able to get into those areas to maintain them."

The project is budgeted to cost less than $25,000 this year, and Finnegan said Monday he is awaiting quotes to set the price of the planting work. The chosen company will install what's called a Midwest mesic pollinator mix.

"It's a blend of short-growing perennial flowers, grasses and sedges that are native to this part of the state," Finnegan said.

The project is expected to pay for itself in five or six years. That factors in the $25,000 initial price of the planting and the cost of meadow maintenance through controlled burns and weed removal, against the $6,000 annual expense of mowing eight acres, Finnegan said.

The park district is changing to meadow from grass as part of efforts to help the environment that ramped up in 2009, when the district created a "green team."

Wilson said the district in the past decade has switched to green cleaning supplies for building maintenance, installed cisterns to preserve and reuse rainwater and started using organic and natural weed-control products around playgrounds. The Park Meadow Project is the next step in finding more sustainable and less environmentally impactful ways to maintain park lands, he said.

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