On a brisk fall Saturday morning, a dozen Boy Scouts from Troop 93 of St. Peter United Church of Christ arrived at the Oak Ridge Marsh Nature Park in Lake Zurich for some volunteer work. The goal for the day was to ensure native plants would endure for years to come.
Awaiting the scouts that morning was new seed collecting equipment, courtesy of a grant from the Vital Lands Grants program, a division of the Grand Victoria Foundation. Seed collecting aprons and specialized hand pruners were purchased using grant funds for use by volunteers during the busy autumn season.
“This grant came at just the right time,” says Ancient Oaks Foundation (AOF) President Judi Thode. “Autumn is the time of year that we collect native grass and flower seeds for distribution to areas that have been cleared of invasive buckthorn. Native woodland seeds are expensive to purchase at retail cost so collecting seeds that are readily available is an economical solution.”
One area where these collected seeds will be planted is at the new Kuechmann Arboretum on Old Rand Road. For the past five years, AOF volunteers, in partnership with the Village of Lake Zurich, have been clearing invasive species from this rare 9-acre oak woodland. Replanting native grass and flower seeds that had been lost to the shade caused by buckthorn will help restore the ecological health of the woodland. Improved diversity of plants provides food, shelter and breeding areas for wildlife.
Along with removing invasive plants and replanting native plants, the Foundation has also mentored several scout projects at the arboretum. The addition of an asphalt drive, completion of invasive plant removal and placement of informational signage will culminate in a grand opening, tentatively scheduled for Spring of 2020.
The Village of Lake Zurich is graced with a unique set of natural circumstances. Its spring-fed lake and hilly topography were formed by Ice Age glaciers over 10,000 years ago. Its oak savannas and wetlands are witnesses to thousands of years of history. The village owns several natural areas from the rare oak woodlands, Oak Ridge Marsh Nature Park and Kuechmann Park, to the high-quality wetland at Old Mill Grove Park. But the diversity of these parks is being lost. Invasive weeds such as buckthorn and honeysuckle, along with a lack of prescribed burns are taking their toll. Encroachment of invasives onto private property decreases property values and causes removal expenses for homeowners.
For more information about the valuable role played locally by the Ancient Oaks Foundation, be sure to visit ancientoaksfoundation.org.
Creating Healthier Habitats
Formed in 2007, the Oak Ridge Marsh Conservation Group (ORMCG) combats threats to natural areas. Their work transformed a dying oak woodland into an area that is full of wildlife, birds, native grasses and flowers with walking and biking trails. ORMCG was renamed Ancient Oaks Foundation to work cooperatively with the Village of Lake Zurich to restore other natural areas into healthy habitats for wildlife and places of passive recreation for residents and visitors.