An Unexpected Walk in Lyman Woods

I was invited to become a board member of the Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance after the last election, and I took them up on it. PDHA does many worthwhile things for the people of Downers Grove, mostly unrecognized. Their seminal contribution to Downers Grove was organizing the effort to coordinate the Village, the DG Park District, and the DuPage County Forest Preserve in purchasing and preserving Lyman Woods. In 2007, Lyman Woods celebrated 20 years of nature. A skeptic at first, after many trips through the different areas, now I get it. If you don’t get it, take a hike. Really; get yourself over there on any day and take a hike.

PDHA also helped start and continue to support the Little Sprouts program. Little Sprouts are 1st graders from all over 58 who come out to the Lyman Woods Center and learn about nature. Not just about squirrels and raccoons and backyard stuff, but about how nature, and natural systems, contribute to out health and welfare, both physically and mentally.

Wild IrisLyman Woods is also a nature laboratory. There is continuing work on streambank stabilization that has set some pretty high standards, and that work has been expanded from the north side to the south side. It is surprising how much there is back there feeding the marsh, as well as the variety of natural, protected, and invasive plant life. Garlic Mustard, an invasive herb from europe, is pulled out of Lyman on a continuing basis. Next time you see a “weeding session” advertised, come on out and help rid the woods of this pest. Left: Wild Iris; Right: White Trillium, both native plants.

Stream bank stabilization has had it’s problems, though. Rock ripraps and plantings have been used for streambank stabilization. There are many tons of rocks that are being toted back into the woods, and in the process a lot of damage has been done, mainly by the front loaders used to carry back the rock. Most of the trails back into the woods are single file paths at best. Wildflowers and plants crowd the pathways, making it easy to spend a couple hours up close with nature. Left: A path; Right: Streambank plantings and riprap rocks.

Unfortunately, the heavy front loader work was supposed to be done during frozen winter months, and although the winter was long enough, a lot of damage was done to the woods on the north side of the marsh,known as Project Area III.

These shots are from my cell phone camera, so the resolution isn’t the best, but here you can plainly see where the concern arises. Compare this with the trail picture above: this used to look like that trail.

Click on the pictures for a larger view.

There has been tree damage. Trunks have been gashed and scraped by the machinery.

Following are some pictures of finished areas. This summer, they should look pretty good. Some naturalists would rather see fallen trees employed to slow down water run off instead of the riprap. I have to leave that to experts.

Although all the heavy loading work was supposed to be done when the ground was frozen, they must have fallen behind. The left roll of straw/seed mix was not yet chewed up by hungry deer. The path that was originally there would have been just wide enough for the single file of hikers.

Pesticides in a nature preserve?

Another mystery area, right next to a finished part of the stream bank.

I expect the contractors did not do any of this on purpose, but they stomped on a lot of native and even protected plant life. Reseeding with local wild plantings is now needed; I have been told even the same plants from somewhere else are not really the same-they need to be from here to be correct. The other concern raised is that the open areas will be fertile ground for more invasive pest plants like the garlic mustard that volunteers have worked at for years weeding out.

The Park District will meet next week with the Forest Preserve and the contractor, to discuss this in private and hopefully come up with steps to correct the damage.

In the meantime, members of Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance will attend Thursday’s Park Board meeting to relay findings and offer suggestions as to what might be done to remedy the situation.

The Park Board meeting is held at the Lincoln Center, Thursday May 15, and starts at 7pm. There is always a part of the meeting reserved for public comments.

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