Special machine provides big boost for Adler grounds revival

An ongoing effort to restore the grounds of the Adler Arts Center in Libertyville got a boost this week courtesy of a monster machine.

Made available for the day by a local corporation, the powerful piece of equipment ripped through and chewed up about five acres of honeysuckle, buckthorn and other invasive species to reveal a long-hidden landscape.

"You can now see the original garden layout with the trees and lines," said Mike Graham, a village resident and executive with Landscape Concepts Management in Grayslake.

"There's still work to do but it's a huge step forward," he added.

For over a year, Graham has been coordinating volunteers, providing equipment and manpower, and spending countless hours helping to revive the landmark David Adler estate.

The company that provided the powerful machine did not want to be named. But its skilled operator maneuvered around desirable trees to surgically remove more undergrowth in one day than volunteers could have done in months, according to Graham.

Thousands of invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn averaging about 12 feet tall were removed to open the area and give native plants breathing room.

"I was pleasantly surprise how much good plant material was there but had been hidden by invasives," Graham said.

The work focused east and south of the Adler Arts Center parking lot at 1700 N. Milwaukee Ave. The nonprofit organization operates out of the 23-room farmhouse where the architect lived from 1918 until his death in 1949.

"It was really remarkable watching it," said Ellen Williams, program and marketing director.

"These invasive species were overtaking everything," she added. "You couldn't see through or walk through."

Adler's 240-acre estate stretched east to the Des Plaines River. He gifted the property and house to the village on the condition the house and grounds be maintained and developed as a community cultural and recreation center.

Over time, the expansive formal gardens became overgrown and neglected. The plan in recent years has been to uncover what was there and make it available for public use, education and programs.

Once the brush is removed, the stumps of the invasive species have to be treated and the area maintained, a tough proposition for a nonprofit organization.

"It's about getting individuals and the groups they're affiliated with excited," Williams said. "It hasn't been managed and it hasn't been maintained so our goal is to explain why it's important," she added.

Last year, the woodland to the north between the house and school was restored with a wood chip trail flanked by native plants installed by the Lake County Audubon Society. The group has more planting and other projects in the works.

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of visitors as a result of the improvements, Williams said. The arts center wants to share the success and capitalize on the momentum.

On April 24, Adler and Audubon will partner in an Earth Day event on site. It will be a celebration of the work that's been done and what is planned.

"I think there's an element of getting people out here to see because it's remarkable," Williams said.

A before photo, left, and after following the clearing of invasive growth on the grounds of the Adler Center in Libertyville. Courtesy of Adler Arts Center
The Adler Arts Center in Libertyville, back, seen through the now cleared property of buckthorn and other invasive species. Architect David Adler live in the 23-room farmhouse from 1918 until his death in 1949. Courtesy of Adler Arts Center
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