This year marked the launch of Calumet 2030 – the first region-based 2030 initiative, with new institutional partnerships, new sites, and a bunch of new volunteers in the Habitat 2030 family. There were four official Cal2030 events, and given their success, there will be many more. We have a Calumet 2030 Facebook page that you’re welcome to join and be a part of the growing community of ecological volunteers in what is both one of the most heavily industrialized and most biodiverse regions of the country. Here’s a brief overview of what occurred at these four initial events.
April 11th at Whistler Woods
The inaugural event, we were cutting down and burning invasive mulberry and buckthorn. When we first got to the site, a bald eagle swooped by and you could hear chorus frogs singing in the April briskness. A crew from SCA lead by Carina Ruiz worked on one part of the preserve while another group of volunteers worked closer to the entrance. Helping organize was Friends of the Forest Preserve‘s Chris Weber who said he thought it’d be more of a relaxed workday, but all the volunteers who showed up wanted to work right away and so we cut down plenty of wood for the brush pile fire as well as enough to sit on when the work was done.
May 16th at Eggers Grove
Glombing onto the Cook County Forest Preserve’s Nature Block Party, our group of volunteers met up with a couple crews from Friends of the Forest Preserve lead by Tyrone Murdo and Brenda Elmore, Tony Martinez’s local community group RISE, and a bus load of students from Baker College Prep. The Field Museum’s Becky Collings and Laura Milkert helped lead the workday with FPDCC ecologist Dan Spencer and stewardship geniuses John Balaban and John Pasterik. This group of 60 people were tasked with planting 1600 wetland plants into the marsh area of Eggers – the culmination of a 3-year project to remove the invasive Phragmites that had taken over the marsh and replace it with more viable native bird habitat. We were able to plant the plugs in an hour and got to enjoy the festivities while killing some invasive garlic mustard for fun.
June 13th at Beaubien Woods
This volunteer experience was a part of a wonderful annual celebration at Beaubien Woods called, fittingly, the Beaubien Woods Celebration. Besides a ton of educational and recreational activities happening all over the site, Friends of the Forest Preserve and the Field Museum helped lead a native planting with volunteers who planned to help out and ones who were accosted to come help when they thought they were only there for “fun.” Groups from GreenCorps and Faith in Place did much of the planting, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was there to announce the Forest Preserve’s 100 Years, 100 Events series of programs happening all over Cook County September 20-27. At this event, the sense of the importance of strong partnerships became clear – without all these groups bringing their piece to the puzzle, we can’t ever put this whole region back together.
July 25th at Rainbow Beach Dunes
The final Cal2030 workday got off to a rocky start when I asked Rainbow Beach steward Alison Anastasio to identify a flower and she stepped in an eroded dune hole and hurt her knee real real bad. However, despite not being able to put weight on her leg, she still lead this Chicago Park District workday by training the 20 volunteers there how to identify and monitor the population of Eastern prickly pear cacti there (the key to IDing it was that it was the only cactus you were ever going to see). I’m not sure how Rainbow Beach Dunes got its name, but the amount and variety of native flowers in bloom definitely redefined the range of colors of the rainbow for us. After monitoring, we got to tour this jewel of dune habitat in South Shore Chicago, and I think we pulled every white sweet clover left on the site. Faith in Place brought their Eco Ambassadors out, a delightful group of young people who not only collected some great data but also brought the best food for the potluck.
This was a great first group of events for Cal2030 – we got to see and preserve so much wildlife, in so many stages of growth, with so many great volunteers. There’s a lot more to be done in the region – these events only happened in Cook County and mostly because there were already workdays happening at this time. However, it’s clear that that work can be done, that people can step up to and help out and even organize their local communities to improve the health of their natural areas.
In fact, Eggers Grove had a second volunteer planting recently, organized outside of another pre-existing event and it went great. Volunteer filmmaker Fred Walls even made a short film about the planting (that you can see here). And we will need to organize a third planting soon. That, as well as hundreds more stewardship days, will be posted on the Cal2030 Facebook page. Let’s continue to make Calumet a healthier and more connected place, together. See you outside!