Volunteers keep DuPage County Forests Preserves beautiful

  • The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County regularly hosts restoration workdays at its preserves. Kevin Cotter of Downers Grove was among the volunteers who participated during a recent workday at Maple Grove Forest Preserve near Downers Grove.

    The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County regularly hosts restoration workdays at its preserves. Kevin Cotter of Downers Grove was among the volunteers who participated during a recent workday at Maple Grove Forest Preserve near Downers Grove. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Lynette Kleisner of Downers Grove works to remove honeysuckle vines during a recent workday at the Maple Grove Forest Preserve near Downers Grove. Nonnative plants, such as honeysuckle, crowd out and threaten native species.

    Lynette Kleisner of Downers Grove works to remove honeysuckle vines during a recent workday at the Maple Grove Forest Preserve near Downers Grove. Nonnative plants, such as honeysuckle, crowd out and threaten native species. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Joe Suchecki, center, says he enjoys volunteering as a steward for Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve near Naperville. "It's a feeling of accomplishment," the Naperville resident said.

    Joe Suchecki, center, says he enjoys volunteering as a steward for Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve near Naperville. "It's a feeling of accomplishment," the Naperville resident said. Courtesy of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

 
 
Posted3/25/2019 6:00 AM

On a sunny but cold Saturday morning, two small groups of volunteers are doing their part to help DuPage County's forest preserves.

The first is busy removing nonnative plants at Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve near Naperville. Roughly 15 miles away at Churchill Woods, a Scout troop is targeting the buckthorn and honeysuckle that has invaded the preserve near Glen Ellyn.

 

"There was a time in history when you could gallop a horse through Churchill Woods. You cannot do that today," said Kim White, a Lombard resident who volunteers as a steward for the site.

A nearby brush pile, which is about the size of a minivan, underscores why White and other stewards are always looking to recruit more volunteers for the district's restoration workdays.

"That's two weekends of work," she said.

Volunteers who participate in the workdays serve an important role in the district's ongoing efforts to remove invasive species from its preserves, said Kathleen Lech, a stewardship technician. They also help collect seeds, pick up litter and beautify sites.

"A volunteer force is incredibly useful to have because of how much land we have to cover," said Lech, noting the district has more than 60 preserves.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While district staff does a great deal of restoration work, Lech said the workdays provide an added benefit.

"More hands make light work," she said.

There are workday events scheduled throughout the year. The total number of volunteers who participate fluctuates. But Lech says there's a core of roughly 200 people who regularly volunteer with the district because "they really want to give back."

"They love the preserves," Lech said. "They enjoy them on their own time and want to show their appreciation."

Meanwhile, there's the stewards -- specially trained volunteers assigned to specific preserves. They help coordinate and oversee workdays and carry out restoration goals at those preserves.

Because the workdays draw a lot of first-timers, Lech said the stewards are there to teach them what they need to know.

"They're not expecting everyone to have an idea of what they're doing when they come to a workday," she said. "They're completely aware that it's a learning experience. They are there to help guide everyone."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Joe Suchecki has been a steward for Springbrook Prairie for more than 20 years.

The Naperville resident started as a volunteer bird monitor at Springbrook in 1994. According to the district, the roughly 1,800-acre preserve is a "birder's paradise" with a variety of grassland birds, including meadowlarks, dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows.

"Because it's so big and because it's open grassland, Springbrook is very valuable for some of our grassland birds," Suchecki said. "I got involved because I knew what birds were out here."

That led to him becoming a steward for Springbrook a few years later. "In order to keep the birds here, you have to have the right habitat," he said.

Suchecki said the fight to keep nonnative plants out of Springbrook is a constant struggle. "A lot of stuff is coming in, so we have to keep cutting it back," he said.

But he says he enjoys doing what he can to help maintain the preserve.

"It's a feeling of accomplishment," Suchecki said.

White says she has seen people make a connection with Churchill Woods because they volunteered there.

"They start to take ownership of it," she said. "They're building these connections to nature that they wouldn't normally have."

Naperville resident Mark Thomas said he was drawn to the recent workday at Springbrook because he likes nature and wildlife.

"I've enjoyed the outdoors my entire life," he said. "I feel it's important to get out and do what we can to preserve it for the generations to come."

To find a list of the district's upcoming workdays, visit dupageforest.org/calendar-of-events. Registration can be done online at apm.activecommunities.com/fpddc/Activity_Search or by calling (630) 206-9630.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.