February 2015

Can ‘Green Infrastructure’ Alleviate Flooding on Your Property?

Are you dreading spring for its frequent rainfalls and the subsequent flooding your home experiences?  It seems that everyone has a flooding story to tell these days, and the past couple of years in particular have brought short, intense rainfalls that result in property flooding and expensive home damage.  Property flooding occurs when rain overwhelms drainage systems and waterways and makes its way into the basements, backyards, and streets of homes.
Many Prospect Heights residents have experienced the costly consequences of property flooding, and these intense storm events also have negative effects on our waterways and the wildlife that depend on clean, pollutant-free water.  Stormwater runoff (water that flows off impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, driveways, and patios) picks up heavy metals, toxins, and pollutants off these surfaces.  As cities grow, more and more natural areas are converted into buildings and paved surfaces.  When rain falls on these surfaces, the water can’t soak into the ground. This water then flows into our local waterways, such as McDonald Creek, the Des Plaines River, and the Slough, negatively impacting the fish, birds, and amphibians that call these waters home. 
It seems as if our flooding woes are only going to get worse in the future - the 2014 National Climate Assessment Report confirms that there have been major increases in precipitation across most of the country over the last 54 years, and projects even more frequent and intense rain events in the future. So, what solutions are available to prevent the unsightly and costly damage of property flooding and the detrimental effects of stormwater runoff on our waterways?  More and more frequently, homeowners and local municipalities have turned to a variety of naturalized stormwater management installations called ‘green infrastructure.’  Green infrastructure can be defined as stormwater management measures that capture and infiltrate rainwater into the ground where it falls, thus reducing stormwater runoff that can flow into homes or our natural waterways.  Many municipalities are finding these practices to be helpful in relieving property flooding and are promoting these practices within their communities.  
Here are some common examples of green infrastructure practices:
Rain Barrels- Harvesting water minimizes the negative impacts of stormwater runoff by capturing rainfall where it lands and saving it for later use in garden or yard irrigation.  They are typically placed underneath gutter downspouts to divert water from roof runoff into the storage barrel.  These barrels typically have a hole to which you can attach a hose for watering plants.  The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has rain barrels for sale
(at, or at North Cook County Soil and Water Conservation (at )
Permeable Paving – Permeable pavement allows water to infiltrate into the ground through porous surfaces or between interlocking pavers, whereas conventional pavement resists water, causing standing water or large flows of stormwater runoff.  Permeable pavement can be used in place of a conventional poured concrete driveway or paver patio.  It is best if this solution is installed by a landscaping professional for optimal performance and stormwater infiltration.
Rain Gardens – Also known as bioswales, these attractive gardens are designed to absorb and slowly infiltrate water runoff from roofs, driveways, and other paved areas surrounding the home. They are typically planted at the bottom of a hill or slanted area where water pools and accumulates.  Rain gardens are most effective when planted with native wetland vegetation, due the water absorption capacity of their extensive root systems.  If you would like to learn more about installing a rain garden in your yard, contact a landscaping professional.  Two local options are Kevin’s Rain Gardens based out of Barrington and Footstone Inc in Glenview.
These are some of the green infrastructure tools that are effective in combatting property flooding on a community-wide scale. If you would like to learn more about green infrastructure, the PHNRC will be hosting "Green Infrastructure - Healthy Solutions to Water Pollution and Flooding" Thursday, March 12th at 7pm at the Prospect Heights Public Library.
This program will be provided by Jeff Mengler, PWS. Jeff is a Senior Project Scientist for Hey and Associates, Inc. and Co-Chair of the Chicago Wilderness Green Infrastructure Vision Taskforce.

Kari Spiegelhalter - PHNRC

PHNRC and Prospect Heights Park District Team Up to Offer Spring & Summer Outdoor Experiences.

The Prospect Heights Park DIstrict and the Natural Resources Commission are teaming up to offer unique outdoor experiences through the Park District this spring and summer.

Small groups can enroll in walking tours that will extend the classroom out into Prospects Height's great natural areas and feature topics like nature walks, bird watches, birding basics, plant identification, tree and shrub identification, local flora, summer evening prairie and wetland walks.

Classes will be conducted by restoration ecologists, experienced birders, plant ecologists and members of the PHNRC.

Look for the Park District's summer programs brochure for dates, times, locations, costs, course descriptions and staff.

It's always better outdoors!


Free Prairie Seed Packets

The Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission is offering free “Prairie in a Packet” native prairie seeds to individuals and families to start their own personal native prairie flower gardens. The seed packets will be available in the Prospect Heights City Hall lobby until February 16th during normal business hours.
Native prairies – even small backyard ones - provide critical habitat and biodiversity for wildlife including at-risk insects and many birds. Instructions on planting premixed seeds are included. The seeds will need to planted by the end of February to be effective.  You can learn more about the seed packets, native prairies, volunteer activity days, and other educational information at

Coyotes in Prospect Heights

Some neighbors have heard coyotes howling in the night. Many have recently reported observing a coyote crossing their yard or a pack of coyotes from a distance.  These coyote sightings are not new, as there have been families of coyotes in the area for many years.  As their natural habitat has become fragmented and developed over the decades, they have found ways to adapt and live among urban communities. There are even coyotes in downtown Chicago!

FACT: There are over 2,000 coyotes living in the State of Illinois.

Coyotes are important members of the wildlife community and fascinating creatures. Did you know that coyotes are monogamous and that a bond between an alpha pair is only broken upon the death of one of the pair? Coyotes usually mate in February.  Only the alpha pair in a pack will mate and the rest of the pack helps to raise the young.
Although coyotes may cause fear in community members, it is often from a simple lack of understanding or urban legend. Media, rumors and innocent misinterpretations of “incidents” are often to blame. There is a growing number of scientific studies and factual information currently available to the public explaining their importance. Those studies can be accessed at

 FACT: There has not been a single incidence of a bite from a coyote to a human in the entire State of Illinois. There are usually between 2,000 to 3,000 domestic dog bites to humans recorded each month in Cook County ALONE, some resulting in fatalities.

Coyotes often do everything they can to avoid people. They are quite timid creatures, living in family packs, traveling during the day in search of food, shelter or a new territory.  In highly developed areas, coyotes have adapted to seek food at night to avoid people and cars. There is evidence that they even have learned to wait for cars to pass before they cross a street.

FACT: In urban areas, 40-70% of coyotes are killed by motor vehicles. Coyotes in rural areas more often lose their lives to hunting practices. In captivity, they have been found to live 13-15 years. In the wild, an average of 3.
Coyotes are an important part of the predator-prey food web.  When the population of large predators, such as coyotes and wolves declines due to human influence, there is a dramatic increase in deer and small mammal populations.  Large populations of deer over-graze plant populations, negatively affecting the birds and insect communities that depend on those plants for survival.  There are complex webs and interdependencies in nature.  This delicate balance needs to be maintained in order to support a healthy ecosystem, and coyotes are a critical part of that balance.

FACT : Studies of fecal material have shown that the urban coyotes diet consists of small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%).

Coyotes can however, pose a risk to small unleashed and unattended pets. Pet owners need to be mindful, not fearful of the possibility.  As predators, if the opportunity arises, they may attack cats and small dogs.  Residents should always keep an eye out for their pets and not allow cats outdoors. Coyote attacks are a very small risk for domestic pets in comparison to the other dangers they face.
Many neighbors share a love for wildlife. Trying to approach a coyote, tame or feed one is a bad idea. Often good intentioned, this human behavior will make coyotes more inclined to approach people or venture out during the day. In fact, many “nuisance” coyotes that have been removed are those that were most visible during the day, as they were being fed by homeowners. 
If you see a coyote, try to frighten it away by yelling and making loud noises.  If the coyote does not want to leave the area, there may be a den nearby. A coyote can make a den in the most unexpected places! Under no circumstances should anyone try to approach the den or remove the pups.  Expert wildlife specialists have been tagging and following our urban coyotes for decades. Let’s leave it up to them to further our understanding and wonderment. In the meantime, we should leave the wildlife to be “wild” and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it.

Embracing nature is a wonderful experience that brings one closer to understanding the world that we live in, and appreciating all of the parts that make it a whole. Coyotes are an important part of our ecology and the natural world, worthy of being respected and understood.

Many more important facts, scientific evidence and stories about coyotes can be found on
All photographs courtesy of Urban Coyote Research Program, Cook County, Illinois


Sunday the 15th of February is the next Volunteer Workday. 

Sunday the 15th is the next volunteer workday and will be focused on invasive buckthorn removal. We will begin at 9:00 am on Hillside Avenue at the intersection of Maple, Olive and Hillside. There is no better way to spend a dreary winter's day than being outside burning buckthorn in the snow. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!
Copyright © 2015 Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission, All rights reserved.

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