Harrison Benwell, Wonder Lake
In 2011, Harrison Benwell underwent noticeable changes as forty-five years of Invasive species growth like Japanese Rose, European Buckthorn, Japanese Honeysuckle, Asian Bittersweet and Autumn Olive were removed from the site. This woodland restoration involved clearing exotic and invasive plant species to restore the high-quality oak woodlands systems, enhance the woodland bird breeding habitat, and help improve the overall stream quality in Wonder Lake by reducing erosion, and create a more scenic vista.One result of management efforts is to improve the health of the oaks such that they will be better able to withstand the impacts of such outbreaks like that of the present gypsy moth.
Brush clearing projects can appear very stark, especially in the first few months. At first glance, the brush and tree removal may seem destructive but allowing sunlight and water to flow freely in the ecosystem once more will create positive and noticeable changes.
Regular visitors to the site will see positive changes unfold as spring and summer progress; the remaining pockets of native wildflowers will expand and be augmented by reseeding of many species once common here that disappeared due to lack of sunlight; songbirds, amphibians, and small mammals will respond favorably to the new growth of native grasses and shrubs; the oak leaves will produce a “dappling” effect as they filter sunlight and rain to the woodland floor.
Pioneer Landing Woodland Restoration, Ringwood
In 2011, the District restored the woodlands located along the west side of Pioneer Road, north of Harts Road near Glacial Park. This 125 acre woodland restoration involved clearing exotic and invasive brush and plant species to restore the high-quality oak woodlands systems, enhance the woodland bird breeding habitat, and help improve the overall stream quality in Nippersink Creek by reducing erosion. The area was then re-seeded with native woodland wildflowers and grasses. Restoration work will continue on the stream and surrounding wetlands.
Glacial Park Conservation Area is among the most ecologically diverse sites owned by the McHenry County Conservation District. This portion of Glacial Park was selected for its large mature oaks, three headwater streams feeding Nippersink Creek, diverse displays of spring wildflowers and close proximity to Pioneer Landing. This once beautiful woodland has become overgrown with invasive woody plants and weeds Look for a much healthier Pioneer Landing in the months to come.
Pleasant Valley, Woodstock
The District completed a Woodland Restoration Project located along the extreme NE portion of the site along Laughing Creek. west This woodland restoration involves clearing exotic and invasive brush and plant species to restore the high-quality oak woodlands system which will also enhance the woodland bird breeding habitat, and help improve the overall stream quality by reducing erosion.
Wetland Restoration Efforts
For over two decades, the Conservation District has been involved with wetland reconstruction and restoration. Currently the District manages approximately 3,000 acres of quality wetlands. On many of the properties the District acquires, the changes that occurred on the land during it’s past land use history need to be reversed. Drainage tiles may need to be removed or modified if that action will not impact adjoining lands. Former agricultural fields and pastures may require re-seeding with native plants. Interior fence lines often need to be removed as they no longer represent property boundaries. These actions work to in order to restore the functional, structural and compositional components of the landscape.
Piscasaw North, Harvard – Wetland Mitigation Projects – A brush removal project was completed near Maxon Road north of the City of Harvard. Along the west side of the road near the parking lot, invasive brush was removed from wetland areas - the species involved are either exotic, originating on another continent and introduced to the United States where they have no natural controls, or aggressive quick spreading species that have overtaken large areas of the site and reduced the biological diversity and wildlife habitat quality for the site due to the dense shading they cause. These include European buckthorn, Asian honeysuckle, Asian bittersweet, autumn olive, Japanese rose, box elder and green ash.
On the east side of Maxon Road, the same type of brush removal and similar species are being removed. The area was then reseeded with native wildflowers, grasses and sedges that are colorful, deep-rooted and have high value to local wildlife species. While the initial brush removal on the site is often drastic visually, as the native species germinate and take hold, the result is a much healthier, sustainable and resilient ecosystem.
Monteloma Springs Wetland Restoration
The North Branch Conservation Area is home to some of the most precious natural resources in McHenry County. Large populations of breeding grassland birds, in precipitous decline across much of the Midwest, can be found here as can McHenry County’s highest quality stream, the North Branch of Nippersink Creek. The creek is home to the most diverse mussel beds in the county and supports many silt intolerant fish species as well. It is also the connecting link between McHenry County’s Prairie Trail and the Hebron Trail, providing hikers, snowmobilers and bike enthusiasts with access to miles of trails.
On the extreme southwest portion of the site groundwater discharges in the form of seeps and springs from a northeast facing slope along Broadway Street. These fens melded into a wide expanse of tall grass prairie dotted with small oak groves and stretching northward into Wisconsin. Over the decades since settlement these prairies have disappeared and the springs along Broadway Street have been shunted into small catch basin ponds and drain tile fields. Named for the original name of the nearby Village of Richmond, the Monteloma Springs Wetland Restoration Project will re-create these original natural communities on lands recently acquired by the District.
For many years illegal dumping has been a problem on this site. The groundwater fed fens located on the down slope along the north side of Broadway Street are a convenient target for “fly” dumping. Washing machines, water heaters and other household items have accumulated over the past 25 years, prior to the purchase of the site by MCCD.
Even today illegal dumping can occur. This pile of rubbish was left within the past year on the west side of the property.
A $52,000 grant allowed the District to remove Invasive brush along Broadway Street in November of 2009. The catch basin ponds and tile lines will be removed as well allowing the groundwater to once again percolate through sand and gravel lenses in the soil to recreate the site’s original fens. Fens are wetland communities whose plants can survive in high PH alkaline rich water that picks up that alkalinity from surrounding limestone gravel. The existing farm field and the fen areas will be restored to appropriate native plant communities.
Once a stunning vista swept north from Broadway Street across rolling hills covered with native prairie and dotted with small oak groves. Today this viewshed is covered by invasive brush that has become established over the past 25 years. The Monteloma Springs Wetland Restoration Project will re-create these vistas by removing exotic brush like European buckthorn and Asian honeysuckle.
|An abandoned cooling bath for milk cans pays silent testimony to bygone farming days when the hillside spring water was used to keep milk cool until it could be picked up for market.|
Part of the project included a massive site cleanup to remove decades of illegal garbage dumped from Broadway Street, down slope into the wetland area as part of the 2009 National Public Lands Day.
Matt Eyles, Region 1 Restoration Technician poses with a full dumpster of trash cleaned up as part of National Public Lands Day at the Monteloma Springs Wetland Project.
Cleanup begins on the Monteloma Springs Wetland Restoration Project. District staff members Matt Eyles. John Aavang and Russ Rogers sort through decades of accumulated garbage. Recyclable materials such as tires are sorted out for further processing.
Small Waters Wetland Restoration
Near the small crossroads village of Alden, Nippersink Creek rises from the waters of Mud Lake and begins its eastward journey to the Chain-O-Lakes. Just east of the lake outlet a vast marsh once existed covering nearly 1,000 acres of lowlands. Historically, the creek meandered slowly through this large wetland eventually crossing under Route 173 and entering Bailey’s Grove (now the Winding Creek Conservation Area). The former KD rail line traversed the edges of the wetland on its route into Alden and Harvard. Today, nearly all of this vast marsh has been converted into productive farmland.
The 2007 bond purchase allowed the District to restore a small portion of this wetland without impacting surrounding private llands. Tile was removed and native vegetation was planted in 2010 in the former agricultural field, thanks to a grant from the Northeastern Illinois Wetland Conservation program.