August 2021
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Summer in Prospect Heights

Sunset at Headquarters - Happy summer everyone!

PHNRC Progress at Pollinator Park

The creation of Pollinator Park at Hillcrest Lake was started in June of 2020 as part of a ComEd Green Regions Grant. The grant project has made significant progress and is rapidly coming to the end of its grant cycle.
Cup plants decorate the restored shore line and are a vital part of the riparian buffers.
The sight was in trouble before the grant as it suffered from localized flooding, shoreline erosion, had no ecological value and very little recreational value. This project is solving those issues by replacing the turf grass with diverse native riparian buffers that incorporate some 80 plus species of native plants. The benefits are enormous. In addition to creating a vast pollinator habitat, the project will arrest and stabilize the chronic shoreline erosion, filter and retain surface runoff, create a premium insect and bird habitat and become a resident attraction through a system of nature trails and interpretive signage.
Shoreline with heavy erosion
Restored shoreline with carp exclosure
Riparian buffers at Pollinator Park
The project is well ahead of the deadline to use the grant funding by the end of 2021. Stay tuned to the Resources Journal for further updates. The NRC would like to thank all of our volunteers and interns for all their hard work and all of the local residents who have given us valuable input and such great positive energy. It has been a Labor of Love!
If you build it, they will come - Photo courtesy of Seth Marcus

PHNRC Mourns the Loss of the Cormorant Tree

It is with great sadness that the PHNRC reports the loss of the iconic Cormorant Tree. A fixture of the Hillcrest Lake community for years, residents, visitors Commissioners and Volunteers have enjoyed the snag and all of the numerous species of birds who chose to use it daily. The tree got its name from the abundance of Double-crested Cormorants that use it for the daily "Drying of the Feathers" ritual. 

"For years the Double-crested Cormorants have perched in this tree to dry their feathers after fishing in Hillcrest Lake, proving that even dead trees play an important role in nature," said bird walk leader Mary Lou Mellon. "Cormorants have to dry their feathers because, despite the fact that they fish for their living, their feathers aren’t waterproof," she added.
Photo courtesy of Dave Ludwin
"Because of their feathers, Cormorants need to sit high up and let the wind dry them out," said Commissioner Dana Sievertson. "That gives cause to the often bizarre assortment of shapes created by the cormorants as they try to dry off."
Photo courtesy of Dave Ludwin
"I  saw their tree was down yesterday. I drove by today and two cormorants were sunning on the furthest branches. Let it be," said ace photographer David Ludwin.

"Seeing the birds was not only picturesque, it demonstrated that we're restoring a healthy environment," added Commissioner Seth Marcus. 

“I’ve always revered trees, especially if they stand alone," said Commissioner Jill Moskal.  "Viewing the Cormorant Birds as they rested on the top branches of the tall tree barren of leaves brought realization of the tree’s purpose:  to provide sanctuary.  Then thinking of the tree and the wonder of nature increased my insight of the beauty in my own community.  It reminds me of a quote from Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam. "Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” 
Photo courtesy of David Ludwin
State endangered Black-crowned night herons take over the tree in fall of 2020. 
"I always looked forward to rounding the north corner of the Slough on Willow and seeing how many Cormorants lined the branches on our bird walks," said Commissioner Dana Sievertson. " Driving to and from work or working on the plantings at Pollinator Park, someone was always on the tree. We all knew it was just a matter of time before it went into the lake, we just hoped it never really happened. It has provided so many moments of inspiration and introspection and so much habitat for the birds."
It did not take long for the crew to relocate their new digs on the north end of the lake.
In a moment of counterpoint and levity, Public Works Director Mark Roscoe added, "From our perspective, Mother Nature is the ultimate vandal." In the end, he is right.
RIP dear friend, you belong to the turtles now.

Fourth of July in Prospect Heights

The Fourth of July in Prospect Heights has always been a hoot. Every year is different but it always retains the ambience of a great day in rural America. This year was no different. Boasting a noticeable increase in participants marching in the parade, the crowds that lined the streets seemed a bit diminished, most likely a reflection of the Covid restrictions being relaxed and people just wanted to be with friends and family in other places. 
Commissioner Jill Moskal waves and walks with PHNRC Volunteers
"We look forward to the parade every year," said Moskal. "It is always a good time and a real treat to participate in the festivities."

"The annual hot dog lunch provided by Hebron Church was missed this year but completely understandable," said Commissioner Ed Madden. "They have always done a great job in capping off a great day, I think everyone hopes that it will continue next year".
Artists Kate Tully and her husband Andy Bean ride their bikes with their bees in tow.

Boardwalk Progress Being made

Even though the ComEd/Green Regions grant was just received in June, the NRC has made significant progress on the project through the efforts of the summer interns, Commissioners and volunteers. "The acre of cattail removal has been completed in the form of a "good bye" present from the Interns," said PHNRC Chair Agnes Wojnarski. "Colin and Blair wanted to make sure the heavy lifting was done on this part of the plan before they left for school. We really appreciate it. It is a huge head start for sure."
Cattails brush cut and herbicided waiting for replacements
The cattails replaced by 2000 warrior sedges on the last work day in August
To date, all the materials for the board walk have been ordered and construction on the modules will begin towards the end of August under the guidance of Eagle Scout candidate Felix Weirich. 

Pop-Up Art Sale and Art Class at The Slough

"Bottle-cap Fish" above by Andy Bean   "View of the Slough”  by Kate Tully
The Sunflower Project is at it again!! The Park District, PHNRC, and the Sunflower Project are we pleased to announce a one day art event on September 25th. The "Wildflowers on Wood" art camp and a "Pop-up Art in the Park Sale" will take place at the Izaak Walton Pavilion. 

"Wildflowers on Wood" will start promptly at 10:00 to 11:00. Resident artists from the Sunflower Project, Kate Tully and Mara Lovisetto will be conducting the workshop in the splendor of the Prospect Heights Slough and helping you create a beautiful
painting on wood, based on Native wildflowers. All materials will be supplied. PHNRC commissioners will be on hand to tell you all about the native plants and why they are so important. The workshop is open to children and adults and participation is limited to 20 people. Registration fee of $10 dollars is required to cover materials and supplies. Call the Park District to register, 847.394.2848.

The Popup art sales will begin at 11:00 and run until 4:30, 
just in time to get an early start on the holiday gift giving! The sale will feature  jewelry, paintings, bottle-cap art, wood turning, photographs, pressed flower on cloth and much more

Limited parking is available inside the Isaak Walton Park, over flow parking is available at the corner of Hillside avenue and Elmhurst Road. The Park is a short nature walk from there. 

Summer Interns Say Good Bye

Summer interns 2021 - Colin Ewert and Blair Ripley
The NRC has been blessed with attracting quality candidates to its summer intern program. This year continued the paradigm. Completing the sixth year of existence, the program has provided two intern positions for the fifth straight year. Originally created in 2015 through a generous anonymous donation, the program has grown exponentially and become funded by the City and the Park District in our regular budgets.
Commissioner Agnes Wojnarski conducts morning plant ID class for the interns with Commissioner Seth Marcus in tow.
The condition placed on the very first internship was the stipulation that the position had to have an educational component to it, it could not be just about laboring. The NRC has always been about education so it was no surprise when Chairperson Agnes Wojnarski instituted the first hour and a half of every day for plant id, learning best land management practices, public relations, dichotomous keys and guiding theory into practice in the field. Wojnarski also spends Wednesdays working with them in the field.

Ripley, a hold over from last years program brought continuity and routine back to this year. A graduate of Emory University this year, she is heading off to graduate studies in New Castle England in Environmental studies. "I would like to thank the NRC for the two years of the most amazing opportunities," she said. "This experience has taught me so much about not only the challenges of ecosystem restoration, but also managing many stakeholder's agendas, coordinating the public and a lot about the hard work it takes to get the job done. The PHNRC is forcing open doors of opportunity for young environmentalists to continue our most noble of fights, to protect, preserve and restore our natural world."
Commissioners Marcus and Wojnarski with Ewert and Ripley
Interns and Commissioners traverse Lake in the Hills Fen.
Ewert comes to the program from his stents as a regular NRC volunteer and the Micro Internship Program from School District 412 that he helped to create in the time of Covid. Ewert will be attending Harper College in the Fall in Environmental Policy.

I enjoy hard work, so I had a great summer, working for the PHNRC. Days in the hot sun, removing invasives with Blair, wiping away sweat with my cap, those were positive experience in retrospect," said Ewert. "As for Restoration, it can be an ongoing process, and to be part of the frontline has been profound for me. I appreciate the opportunity and will carry the experience with me in life."

"The Commission, the City, the Park District and the residents of Prospect Heights are the other beneficiaries of this program," said Dana Sievertson, a Commissioner with the NRC. "There is no way we could get all the work that gets done every summer, without these two intern positions. Their work always makes a huge difference in our open areas."

Seth Explains the Name

Common name: Pokeweed

Scientific name: Phytolacca americana

Pokeweed - Photo courtesy of Dr. John Hilty at

My first guess about where the ‘poke’ in pokeweed came from was wrong.  It’s simply the English take on the Algonquin or Powhatan word for the plant - poughkone (also puccoon)

‘Phyto’ is Greek for plant.  ‘lacca’ is derived from the Latin word for red or crimson dye.

‘americana’ is because the plant is native to America.

This plant is common in our area.  It can be very tall - 4 to 10 feet.  Perhaps the most notable part of the plant is the berries which can be red to deep purple.  While the plant can be highly poisonous to us, many birds eat the berries.  The berries can be processed to make a dye thus the ‘lacca’ name.

Nature Speaks - Dr. Allison Sacerdote-Valet

"Direct Effects of an Invasive Buckthorn on Amphibian Embryo Survival and Development"

September 23rd 2021 - Allison Sacerdote-Valet
7:00-8:30 PM - "Direct Effects of an Invasive buckthorn Metabolite on Amphibian Embryo Survival and Development"
 a Zoom presentation.

Please join us as we zoom in and welcome back Allison Sacerdote-Valet, Curator of Herpetology at Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum as she gives her presentation, "Direct Effects of an Invasive buckthorn Metabolite on Amphibian Embryo Survival and Development"

Most  people know Dr. Sacerdote-Velat as one of the leading authorities on Green Snakes but did you know she is one of the foremost authorities on buckthorn? Please join us for this most informative talk on Prospect Height's public enemy # 1, buckthorn! Dr. Sacerdote-Velat will tell you just how bad this guy is and why we all want to remove it! 

European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), exhibits aggressive growth in amphibian breeding sites and releases the secondary metabolite, emodin, into soil and water. Emodin is known to have several deleterious, bioactive properties in mammals and birds, but its effects on amphibians had not been previously assessed. 

Click here to learn more                                                       Click here to register

Nature Speaks - Dr. Alice Bell

"Our Biggest Experiment
An Epic History of the Climate Crisis"

January 20th 2022 – Dr. Alice Bell
1:00 - 3:00 PM - "Our Biggest Experiment – An Epic History of the Climate Crisis” A Zoom presentation.

PHNRC is very pleased to announce Dr. Alice Bell from England will be joining us for her very important presentation, "Our Biggest Experiment -  An Epic History of the Climate Crisis". 

Traversing science, politics, and technology, Our Biggest Experiment shines a spotlight on the little-known scientists who sounded the alarm to reveal the history behind the defining story of our age: the climate crisis.

The celebrated author will tease out the stories of scientists that took us from Eunice Foote’s simple experiment on her windowsill to Revelle's testimony in DC, joining the dots to tell the story of how we discovered the climate crisis.

Click here to learn more                                          Registration coming soon
A cumulus nimbus stalks the Pollinator Park 

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