Volunteers tackle invasive buckthorn on Chicago Bears campus

  • Kelly Schultz, stewardship ecologist for the Lake County Forest Preserve, holds a sample of buckthorn to more than 40 volunteers assembled Friday in front of the Walter Payton Center on the Chicago Bears campus in Lake Forest to remove the invasive shrubs and trees.

      Kelly Schultz, stewardship ecologist for the Lake County Forest Preserve, holds a sample of buckthorn to more than 40 volunteers assembled Friday in front of the Walter Payton Center on the Chicago Bears campus in Lake Forest to remove the invasive shrubs and trees. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Bryan Pett, stadium operations director for the Chicago Bears, goes after a huge buckthorn tree near the Walter Payton Center on the Chicago Bears football campus in Lake Forest.

      Bryan Pett, stadium operations director for the Chicago Bears, goes after a huge buckthorn tree near the Walter Payton Center on the Chicago Bears football campus in Lake Forest. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • More than 40 volunteers from the Lake County Forest Preserve District and Chicago Bears employees removed invasive buckthorn shrubs and trees Friday from around the Walter Payton Center in Lake Forest.

      More than 40 volunteers from the Lake County Forest Preserve District and Chicago Bears employees removed invasive buckthorn shrubs and trees Friday from around the Walter Payton Center in Lake Forest. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Buckthorn tree and shrubs grow wild all over near the Chicago Bears campus in Lake Forest.

      Buckthorn tree and shrubs grow wild all over near the Chicago Bears campus in Lake Forest. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Elizabeth Peters, manager of events and hospitality for the Chicago Bears, gets down in the swamp behind the Walter Payton Center on the Chicago Bears campus in Lake Forest, cutting away invasive buckthorn shrubs and trees Friday.

      Elizabeth Peters, manager of events and hospitality for the Chicago Bears, gets down in the swamp behind the Walter Payton Center on the Chicago Bears campus in Lake Forest, cutting away invasive buckthorn shrubs and trees Friday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/13/2022 5:17 PM

"It's ugly."

That's how John Bostrom, senior adviser of operations and safety for the Chicago Bears, describes buckthorn that lines the team's campus in Lake Forest.

 

In a partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserve, Bears employees and more than 40 volunteers began to remove the invasive buckthorn Friday from a third of an acre behind the Walter Payton Center. They were supposed to clear the vegetation weeks ago for Earth Day but were delayed due to bad weather.

More than 1.5 acres of buckthorn has been removed from the campus and Middlefork area, adjacent to Halas Hall.

Buckthorn deprives native plants of sunlight and stunts the growth of other organisms by releasing a chemical called emodin.

"We like the beautiful look of natural plants," Bostrom said. "Daily maintenance occurs regularly whether with our wetlands or grass. We have four beautiful natural grass playing fields that add to that effect."

During the three hours volunteers were clearing the buckthorn, Russ Sala was busy loading the back of his truck with cut bushes and trees, hauling away load after load.

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