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Greener Glen Ellyn

We strive to be an eco-friendly leader in the Glen Ellyn community. As part of our goal to inspire and motivate the public, we have created this online resource center! Explore the information below to learn how you can contribute to creating a “Greener Glen Ellyn.” Don’t forget to follow Greener Glen Ellyn on Facebook for more updates!

  • Invasive Plants: Killing Our Ecosystem

    According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our country spends close to 120 billion annually on the control and containment of invasive species. Of that, about 25 billion is spent specifically on noxious plants. Here in Illinois, hundreds of aggressive alien plants have been accidentally or intentionally introduced that cause devastating loss to agriculture and natural areas.

    In our local ecosystems, that loss is hard to measure. To most of us, our green spaces look pretty good. But if you have some decent plant identification skills, it is hard not to become discouraged. Just like in highly diverse rainforests, we have plants that exist nowhere else on the planet. Finding them now though is a real challenge. A big reason is invasive plants.

    Our wooded areas are choked with invasive shrubs like common buckthorn and bush honeysuckle species. The shaded floor is covered with garlic mustard and escaped ground ivy. Our fields are filled with Eurasian weeds like thistle, teasel, Queen Anne’s lace and burdock. Wetlands are covered in narrow-leaved cattail, reed canary grass and common reed. And it isn’t just plants that are affected.

    Here is an example: say a local wetland has a healthy population of a plant called cinnamon willow herb. This one species supports local insects – five types of beetles, several species of true bugs, a cute little yellow ant, two types of flies and three different sweat bees. These are just the associates that are known. Most plant/insect interactions are still undocumented. If the willow herb population is taken over by invasive reed canary grass, those insects have to look elsewhere for food – often this is their only host plant. Then, the birds that rely on those insects may not find the sustenance they need. Those that dine on birds, eggs or nestlings may now feel the impact. It isn’t just plants that are affected.

    WHAT WE DO: Our Park District, along with other land managing agencies like the Village, county Forest Preserve Districts, and others spend the majority of their time working to control invasive plants. Sure, we much prefer doing the feel good things like planting trees and spreading native grasses and flower seeds. But in reality, killing plants that have taken over habitats and have eliminated the conservative native species is what we are charged with. Unfortunately, there is not enough staff to get these green beasts under control.

    HOW YOU CAN HELP: Take control in your yard. Learn to identify some of the common invaders and control them. Many of these big problem plants in our ecosystems are due to invasions from neighboring properties. If a robin dines on your honeysuckle berries, flies over a preserve and eliminates their seedy load, a new population of invasive honeysuckle will grow unwittingly known to you. Another way you can help is by volunteering for these agencies. All have workdays where volunteers can help control of the invading plants. 

  • Nature Rx: Nature Does the Mind and Body Good

    You know how there is something special about the ocean, a forest, the open prairie, mountains, or rocky desert that captivates us? These places can make you feel small and insignificant in the immense realm of life – but also create a calm energy that can motivate and make you feel alive. That is nature: simple and complex, raging and peaceful, otherworldly yet part of us.

    Spending time outside is good for you. Search the internet for the “health benefits of nature” and you’ll be inundated with study after study that verifies the scientific proof. Time in a green space can ease anxiety, lessen depression, enhance cognitive abilities, and improve mood. Once outdoors, you are typically more active. Walking, running, biking, gardening, playing sports, doing yard work all contribute to a healthier lifestyle that can combat obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure and stroke that often accompany a sedentary way of life.

    Time spent in your backyard or walking around the neighborhood is a vast improvement over a couch or office chair. But time immersed in a natural setting, where everything in your scope of vision is natural, not human-made, is even more beneficial. That escape element does the body good. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Lake Michigan or the north woods of Wisconsin; it can be a ten minute car ride to a local natural area like Churchill Park.

    WHAT CAN YOU DO: Encourage yourself and your family to get outside, even 15 minutes a day. Bundle up this winter and search for animal tracks in the yard or around the neighborhood after a fresh snowfall. Putter around the yard this spring and take notice of when the first plants start emerging. If you can sneak away for a few hours, it will be time well spent. You may not be able to measure the results, but most likely you’ll feel better. As with making exercise part of your routine, make time for a daily dose of nature. Unplug; walk out the door, recharge, and flourish like the plants that can help sustain us.

    WHAT WE DO: Parks in urban communities offer an important public health benefit and serve a critical role in providing healthy habitats for wildlife and plants for use by future generations. The Glen Ellyn Park District actively manages 29 parks and 260-acres of open space where our residents have room to run, play, and explore the outdoors. The District also offers a number of activities each season with opportunities get outside such as nature walks, summer camps, and monthly restoration workdays.

  • Rain Gardens & Clean Waters: Rain, Rain Don't Go Away

    We all know the importance of rain. It is a precious resource that sustains living things, cleanses and dilutes pollutants, replenishes aquifers, influences weather systems, and can be harvested and used for showering, flushing and irrigation.

    It also can be problematic in developed areas where impervious surfaces cover a large percentage of the land, leaving less area for rain to soak into the ground. Instead, it rolls over the surface and can lead to flooded basements, over-topped lakes and ponds, impassable roads, soggy and muddy backyards, and over-burdened storm-sewer systems.  As stormwater travels across the hardened landscape, it also picks up salts, petroleum, herbicides and other chemicals that get washed into our rivers, streams and lakes.

    As rain events continue to increase in severity and frequency, we should encourage and embrace long-term green infrastructure solutions in our community. There also smaller scale ways to combat saturated situations, utilize the rainwater, create habitat, and provide spaces for water to slow, collect, infiltrate and filter. A lot of good things happen when rain can stay where it falls. Here are a few things to consider:

    • Rain gardens are typically described as depression areas that are planted preferably with native plants that can handle both wet and dry situations. They typically are 4-8 inches deep and utilize existing soil or amended soils that consist of sand, topsoil and compost. Often they are placed near gutter downspouts, along impervious surfaces like driveways and sidewalks, or in lower lying areas. These spaces can solve problems while adding color, interest and value to your yard.
    • Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes and styles. They are hooked up to gutter downspouts where they fill quite rapidly. Often people link barrels together to harvest as much water as possible. Over-flow hoses that lead away from the foundation of your home prevent water from seeping into your basement. Often plants watered with rain water grow better than water from the spigot, and with most barrels having a capacity of 50+ gallons, you can quench a lot of thirsty plants all over your yard.
    • Permeable hardscapes are becoming more commonplace. Options include simple crushed stone or gravel, grass and brick pavers, porous asphalt, and pervious concrete. As we update hard surfaces around our homes, there are many options available that allow rain to infiltrate into the soil.

    WHAT WE DO: Rain garden landscaping is installed around the Boathouse at Lake Ellyn. This ornamental planting is beautiful, functional, and feeds all sorts of pollinators. A rain garden was also created at Prairie Path Park in an area that was heavily shaded, had poor drainage, and little vegetation. Many of our parks feature swales and streams that are vegetated with native plants that help hold soil in place during times of high flow, preventing erosion and silt-laden water from entering larger water bodies. Our natural areas also have a huge capacity for holding and storing stormwater. And, vegetative restorers (a.k.a. floating islands) are installed at Lake Ellyn. Native plants roots grow through the bottom of the islands, and provide surface area for microbes to attach and help filter pollutants that enter the lake via storm sewers.

    WHAT CAN YOU DO: Consider planting a small rain garden. There are multiple resources available on-line that provide plans if you are a do-it-yourself type. Many landscape companies work with homeowners to design, construct, plant and maintain rain gardens, but also can install permeable hardscapes. Consider visiting either park to glean ideas.


  • Benefits of Trees: Trees Give and Take

    The Giving Tree is a favorite childhood book of many. Mr. Shel Silverstein’s simple story tells of the relationship between a boy and his beloved tree. While the anthropomorphic talking tree expresses great love for the boy as she watches him grow into an old man, one can’t help but feel bad as the tree freely gives herself as a play-space, offers the boy apples, branches and wood, and ultimately is reduced  to a mere stump. But the boy continues to come back to her – is it love for the tree or selfish greed?

    Fruit, nuts, berries, wood, perfume, wax, cork, dyes, syrup, adhesives, medicines, shade, oxygen and beauty are just a few things trees provide for us. They shelter and feed countless numbers of animals, birds, and insects. Some scientists believe that trees communicate with one another – that they nourish and protect one another with the help of subterranean network of interconnected roots, fungi and microbes. Our knowledge of the complex relationship of trees and their surrounding ecosystems is quite limited. But we do know that having healthy, treed biological systems is beneficial to us on multiple levels.

    Trees take from us too. We give them plenty of carbon dioxide needed for their respiration. In turn carbon is stored, which lessens the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.  Excess water from our impervious surfaces rolls their way and is soaked up by sponge-like roots, helping to offset potential flooding. Leaves and branches serve as an umbrella, taking the force of pelting rains that could lead to topsoil erosion. The leaves also block the beating rays of the sun to shade and cool our homes, buildings – taking away some of the costs associated with running air conditioners. Air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone are absorbed by leaves as well.

    Trees also take our stress, anger, sadness and anxiety. A walk among trees can put us in a better mood and help clear our heads. They can provide interest, beauty and inspiration. Planting trees make us feel good, while cutting them down often makes us feel remorse. Trees and people have a give and take relationship.

    WHAT WE DO: The Park District is working to care for our community trees. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy tree-filled parks and open spaces. Places where kids can play hide-and-seek around a large trunk, or swing from a study branch. Visit Lake Ellyn Park on a warm day and you’ll find hammocks strapped to trees, cradling lounging teenagers. Picnicking under the shade of a tree on a summer day is a treat. With the loss of elm and ash trees over the years, new trees are continually added to our urban forest.  We’ve been planting a diverse mix of species, so that if future pests, diseases or fungus invades a particular population, a catastrophic tree loss is avoided. We’ve also focused on properly mulching trees, to reduce the “volcanoes” that can damage the bark and surface roots.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider adding a tree to your property. Check on your existing trees and make sure they are properly mulched.  If you do not have space for more trees, go for an appreciation stroll. Take notice of a few stately neighbors you may have overlooked. Give them a wink, nod or even a hug. They may give you a warm feeling back.

  • Volcano Mulching

    Mulching can be beneficial for tree health as it helps retain moisture and improve soil conditions. However, incorrect mulching practices can harm trees, even causing their death. One common mistake is called “volcano mulching,” where excessive mulch is piled around the base of trees, creating a volcano-like shape against the trunk. Mulch should not come into direct contact with the tree trunk. Doing so can result in improper root growth, decay, and infestation. By following a few simple practices, we can promote the health of local trees:

    • Spread mulch away from the tree base, exposing the trunk/root flare.
    • Use a recommended mulching depth of 2 to 4 inches.
    • Extend mulch in a 4- to 5-foot diameter away from the tree.
    • Check mulch levels annually; trees may not need mulching every year.
    • Ensure mulch is not piled against the tree bark by landscapers.

  • Native Plants: April Showers Bring May Flowers

    The season’s first plants are the natural heralds of warmer days ahead. Winter’s dismal shades of brown and gray are swept away by the beautiful spectrum of spring flowers. Soon after birds are singing, bees are buzzing, and people are out enjoying the pleasant weather. The world at once comes back to life. The previous sentence is more than garish metaphor, but a declaration on the importance of plants. The rest of us cannot go about our lives without them.

    Harnessing the energy of the sun, plants convert nutrients found in the soil into forms that are edible to other living creatures. Without plants, our meals would consist of trying to extract carbohydrates and minerals out of mouthfuls of dirt. The addition of native plants into an urban yard will provide nourishment and habitat to wildlife that cannot be matched with bird feeders and bee houses. A diverse, native garden will play host to microscopic life-forms on up the food chain to the more substantial mammals. All year long, you can help enhance your neighborhood’s ecosystem.

    Since our native plants have existed in the area for thousands of years, they are fine tuned to living with the onslaught of hazards an ornamental plant would have to resist. They require very little watering once established, do not need to be replaced season after season, have no need for fertilizer, and can shrug off hungry insects.

    The Chicago region is home to approximately 1,700 species of native plants, and while only a fraction of these are available in nurseries, there are still hundreds of species available for use in the home landscape. Species can be found that bloom in a variety of colors and throughout the growing season. This diversity allows the savvy home gardener to enjoy blooms from early spring to the first hard freeze in the fall. There are species for every application: dry rock gardens, shady ground cover, rain gardens, hedgerows, arbors, green fences, privacy screening, flower beds, and winter interest.

    Over the eons our area’s native plants have colonized nearly every inch of useable soil, creating unique and beautiful floral assemblages seen nowhere else. Let nature be your guide to gardening and use native plants!

    WHAT WE DO: The Glen Ellyn Park District performs extensive restoration in our park’s natural areas. Activities such as prescribed fire and removal of invasive understory shrubs restore the natural processes of our ecosystems and allow our native flora to once again thrive. Where severe degradation has occurred, parks staff will reintroduce native plant species through seeding and installing plugs. Reconstructing a solid foundation of diverse plant species strengthens the natural areas food chain, provides for an abundance of diverse fauna, and creates a refuge for our local wildlife. High-quality natural areas promote a better community through healthy outdoor recreation, educate by allowing people to come face-to-face with nature, and provide ecological services such as storm water retention and pollution reduction.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider setting aside a small portion of your yard for a native garden. Removing a neglected hedgerow of invasive species like European Buckthorn or Bush Honeysuckle is a great way to clear room for a native planting. Assess the amount of lawn used and consider replacing unused portions with native plants. Create a small rain garden in a soggy portion on the yard; large rooted native plants will use the extra water and increase ground infiltration. Use native trees and shrubs in your landscaping. Our native dogwoods, viburnums, buttonbush and ninebark all produce showy flowers and vibrant foliage. The Greater DuPage chapter of Wild Ones often posts a great list of upcoming native plant sales in the Chicago region.

  • Insect Awareness: Don't Be a Buzzkill

    Insects are often seen as pests – bothersome, dangerous and serving little value. Insecticides can be found not only in home improvement stores, but also in grocery stores, gas stations and drug stores. Most of us have no problem swatting, squishing and spraying insects without much remorse. But, what are the consequences of this assault? Do we really understand our impact on insects and the price humans may pay for the demise of the arthropod world?

    Insects have been on this planet for an estimated 400 million years. They are arguably the most successful creatures, accounting for over two thirds of “visible” life forms. They are found on every continent and inhabit all ecosystems, minus the oceans. They pollinate the majority of fruit crops, are the vital link in food chains, and provide many beneficial products such as wax, honey, silk, and dyes. They are used in medical research and serve as decomposers, eating away dead plants and animals that would pile up around us. Insects are estimated to provide 57 billion dollars of ecological services in the United States each year. They are beautiful, mysterious, inspirational, and unfortunately, declining at alarming rates.

    Surprisingly, we still haven’t identified the majority of insects. There are several estimates on how many insect species exist. To date, about 900 thousand species have been given names. Many entomologists believe there could be minimally two million species, while others have estimated upwards of 30 million species. A stat listed in The Guardian mentioned that during the first week of November 2017, 95 new beetle species were discovered in Madagascar, seven types of moths were identified in South America, 10 new spiders in Ecuador, and seven new spiders from South Africa. We still have a lot to learn about the little critters that share our planet.

    As scientists discover new species daily, they also learn how rapidly they are disappearing. In October 2017, an alarming study was released. Trapped insects from 1,500 samples taken at 63 different nature reserves across Germany were analyzed by biomass (weight) over a 27-year period. It revealed a 76% reduction in flying insect numbers. Most likely, this is happening in many other countries. Even us non-entomologist have experienced the decline. Remember when a drive at night, especially through the countryside, would result in a bug-splattered windshield? Most of us wash away more salt from our vehicles these days than moth wings.

    To share another perspective, consider that of parental birds. Most baby birds rely on a diet of insects. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, has shared stories of chickadees that need caterpillars for their young. Many caterpillars eat specific leaves and chickadees repeatedly seek out native trees. On a day in 2014, he noted that a native white oak tree had over 220 caterpillars present while a non-native callery pear tree had just one caterpillar. No native trees, no caterpillars, and no chickadees. Our songbird populations have been declining for decades. We need to consider our landscapes, how they impact insects and subsequently the wildlife that eat them, especially as natural habitats continue to disappear.

    Many people are aware of low monarch butterfly populations due to habitat loss and herbicide use that has killed off milkweed plants, the monarch caterpillars required food plant. By eliminating certain plants, we negatively impact insects. Our farming practices are having a global impact on insect numbers. We are losing the most resilient types of beings on earth. On a large scale and on a personal level, perhaps we should consider that not all bugs are bad. We’ve created chemicals that can coat seeds and make them insect resistant for the duration of the plant’s life. Yet we still haven’t figured out how to pollinate most of our food crops without insects. Instead of shooing them, perhaps we should try saving them.

    WHAT WE DO: The Glen Ellyn Park District is dedicated to restoring natural areas within our parks. As native plants return, they support insects and the wildlife that depend on them. Insects pollinate most wild plants, leading to the development of seeds which expand the plant populations. In 2017, a young woman working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, constructed a mason bee house. The structure is filled with hollow tubes, logs with holes and plenty of space for the little native solitary bees to nest and lay eggs. You can check it out at Churchill Park. 

    WHAT YOU CAN DO: Rethink your landscape plants. As things need replacing, consider native trees, shrubs, and perennials that support wildlife and offer food for insects like caterpillars. Reduce use of insecticides. Sometimes insecticides are hidden even in the ornamental plants you purchase. Avoid flowers and plants that are treated with neonicotinoids – a synthetic chemical insecticide that is taken up via the roots and is systemic throughout the plant. There are concerns that the pollen and nectar of the treated plants also contain the poison – potentially harming bees and other pollinators.

  • No Mow: Ideas for "Greener" Grass

    Most of us are surrounded by it. We help it grow with extra nutrients, we keep it from being bullied by invaders, and we provide water to quench its thirst. But then we cut it because it grows too well. Often it is bagged and thrown away with the garbage. The concept of the “American lawn” is a bit puzzling, but the majority of people want a lush, green, soft carpet around homes, offices, parks and cities. We spend billions of dollars in lawn care products annually and tens of billions hiring others to manage our lawns. It is estimated that the equivalent of 50,000 square miles of U.S. land is covered in turf grass – the largest irrigated crop in our country.

    The history of lawns is a fascinating read. There are many players that helped shape our love of grass. Most are traced back to Europe. Keeping vegetation cleared around castles in France and England may have contributed to the “look”, as well as having common areas in towns for grazing sheep, goats and cattle. In the 1700’s, formal estate gardens became more common and the wealthy would hire people to scythe the long vegetation around the home. Shorn grass became a status symbol. The first lawn mower was developed by Edwin Budding in the 1830’s. This desired look arrived to America along with the settlers.  The popular sports of golf and lawn bowling also migrated, along with the need for short cut fields in which to play. The invention of the automobile also played a role, as keeping land along roadways clear for better visibility was required. In the 1950’s and 60’s, subdivisions became popular, similar homes with yards of grass.

    We love grass and there is a need for these open spaces. Areas for people to gather, play, and socialize without becoming a muddy mess. Places for pets and kids to run free, away from obstacles. Grass is soft and holds up to wear and tear. Around our homes, a groomed lawn looks ideal alongside flowers and trees. Lawns convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, they help control soil erosion and soak up rainfall.

    However, there are negative impacts associated with maintaining grass. The Environmental Protection Agency lists that 5% of our air pollution is related to lawn care equipment. There also is the noise pollution associated with the loud engines – which impacts not only our peace but wildlife’s ability to hear prey and predators, and decreases their ability to communicate. It is estimated that close to 90 million pounds of fertilizers, herbicides and insectices are applied in the United States each year. Production of these chemicals, transporting them and applying them can be dangerous. Fertilizer ingredients not taken up by the plants, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, can get washed from lawns during watering and rain events, into storm drains and into our rivers, streams and lakes. Extra nutrients create havoc on aquatic systems, from algae blooms and unnatural plant growth, to decreased oxygen levels and fish kills.  A lawn is also a very sterile environment, void of diversity, offering little to support wildlife. Last, we tap into our precious clean drinking water to keep the grass green. Landscape irrigation accounts for almost a third of all residential water use, and some estimate that 50% of that is wasted due to leaks, run-off and evaporation.

    These complex issues have no easy answers. There will always be a need for grassy areas, but perhaps we take a harder look at how we manage the carpets of green and find more environmentally friendly approaches.

    WHAT WE DO: The Glen Ellyn Park District manages a lot of turf grass in parks, athletic fields, around buildings, parking lots, and pavilions. We strive for an integrated pest management approach that uses effective weed and pest control with minimal impact on people and the environment. Understanding soil conditions and nutrient deficiencies, along with monitoring turf conditions help guide decisions. Aeration and over-seeding are less impactful methods to keep the weeds down. Our athletic fields receive the most “attention”, as having suitable and safe playing conditions usually require use of fertilizers and occasional pesticides. Thicker, softer grass equals a more cushioned impact when athletes fall and hold up to high-usage. If fertilizers are used, they have little to no phosphorus, helping ease nutrient loads in stormwater. Many parks have a reduced regime of lawn care needs, primarily we just mow. Parks may be treated, but only when needed, not routinely. Some athletic fields may get watered during dry times, but other park grass is left to go dormant. Glen Oak Park is currently a pesticide-free park. We are trying a new natural, organic, biodegradable herbicide in select areas. The District also has created “no-mow” areas, primarily adjacent to natural areas. Over time, with some weed management and seeding in native plants, those patches incorporate back into nature.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO: Check out the E.P. A.’s website, as there are several guides and resources available for environmentally friendly yards. Reduce use of fertilizers, are they really needed at the beginning and end of the growing season? Learn to tolerate weeds in the grass and intervene occasionally when needed. If you use herbicides, read the product label. Also, spot treat only the weeds – why blanket the entire yard if weeds are hardly present? Reevaluate how you water. Many sources state water your lawn slowly, deeply, and less frequently. If you have a sprinkler system, turn it off it if recently rained. Check sprinkler heads while in use to make sure they are watering the grass and not the sidewalk, street and driveway. Consider reducing the amount of grass in the yard. If the sunny corner is never used, maybe convert it to a flowery butterfly garden or a place to grow peppers and tomatoes. Look into alternatives to grass, like ornamental groundcovers, buffalo grass, eco-grass and sedges. When the lawn mower is beyond repair, it could be replaced with an electric model that is quieter and less of an air polluter. The new, ‘old-fashioned’ manually pushed reel cutters work great on small yards. You may have to go over it twice in a few places and the clippings will be left behind, but you’ll get some exercise and clippings help retain moisture and break down fairly quick. 

  • Stewardship of Our Natural Resources

    By definition, stewardship means to care for, manage, shepherd or protect something or someone. Stewardship of natural resources relates to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we inhabit, the lakes and oceans we swim in, the mountains we climb, and the forests we stroll through. Caring for these resources requires effort by all of us – we share this space and so will future families for years to come.

    On a local level, we are fortunate to have access to clean drinking water. We give little thought to all the processes required that ensure water appears at the twist of a handle and that it is safe. However, our local waterways are another story. While rivers may not catch on fire like they did in the 50’s and 60’s, most lakes, rivers, and streams still contain many pollutants such as oils, fertilizers, herbicides, road salt, debris, to dangerous viruses and bacteria.

    It is no different with our air – it could be better. While most of us don’t live next to an oil refinery, chemical plant, or coal-fired power plant, we do live in proximity to Chicago. The American Lung Association gave the city an “F” grade in its 2018 State of the Air Report, due to ground level ozone pollution. Transportation emissions are a large culprit affecting air quality and our roadways, airways and railways are non-stop traffic. Perhaps it is time to rethink how much we drive and what we drive.

    As far as land goes, much of DuPage County is developed – covered by transportation corridors, businesses, homes, schools, parking lots and more. Back in 2009, approximately 20% of the county was undeveloped. Attempts to search for more recent stats came up empty, but one can assume that over the past nine years, more land has been built upon, rather than abandoned and restored into natural areas. Those open areas help mitigate the impacts of the developed zones, however much of the undeveloped land is severely degraded.

    Protecting nature resources is vital to our own wellbeing. We know that our actions are taking their toll on this planet, yet many of us continue to live as though everything will be alright. We cannot see into the future, so the repetitive assaults on the land, water, and air continue. We leave it up to the regulators, the engineers, the researchers and the scientists to solve the problems. Very few of us internalize that maybe, just maybe, we can solve some of the issues ourselves. If we all take small steps, collectively, we can make big changes. We can make better choices to be better stewards of the resources that cannot defend themselves.


    • The Glen Ellyn Park District is working to enhance local natural areas within parks through ecological restoration efforts. When ecosystems are healthy, they function better. A diverse wetland system is much better at filtering and absorbing toxins and pollutants.
    • We plant trees. A robust tree canopy helps absorb air pollutants, cool the immediate temperature, prevents erosion that could impact water quality, and helps remove toxins from the soils.
    • We utilize more native plants in our landscapes that require less water.
    • We’ve upgraded many of our building systems and lighting to be more energy efficient. The Lake Ellyn Boathouse improvements were awarded with a Gold-level LEED certification (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design).
    • Most parks and facilities have recycling cans to help offset the amount of waste destined for landfills.
    • We have a staff environmental committee and citizen’s environmental committee that work to identify ways to make our parks, programs and facilities greener.
    • We also offer a variety of nature and environmental programs that showcase many of our natural resources.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO: Take small ‘green’ steps. When traveling locally, consider walking or bicycling if you are able – you’ll lessen your air impact. Many parks, businesses, churches and libraries have bike racks. Send the kids to their sports and activities with reusable water bottles. Many of our fountains now have the ‘bottle filler’ option. Help improve local green spaces by joining us for a restoration workday. Take a nature class, we offer several each season.

    Here are five more easy ways to be a better natural resource steward:

    1. Use reusable shopping bags – the world needs less plastic bags.
    2. Shut off your car when waiting for a train – idling causes air pollution.
    3. Buy locally grown food – tomatoes from the backyard taste far better than ones that were picked weeks earlier and shipped from hundreds if not thousands of miles away.
    4. Take the Pick-Up 5 challenge – pick up five pieces of trash during a walk.
    5. Recycle – all that you can.

  • Native Trees & Shrubs: Preserving Our Urban Forest

    We are fortunate to live in a beautiful town of charm and character. The tree-lined streets and leafy neighborhoods of Glen Ellyn create a welcoming effect and is one of the top reasons why people choose to live here. Our municipality has more tree canopy cover than most of our county neighbors. Tree canopy, in this reference, refers to the amount of tree coverage when viewed from above. According to an urban canopy study completed as part of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, Glen Ellyn’s canopy is approximately 36%, while DuPage County averages 26%. These statistics set us apart but there is still room for improvement, as much of the original tree canopy has been lost to development.

    We know that trees and shrubs offer many benefits.

    • They add beauty, interest, and economics to the landscape while creating shade that provides a cooling effect to lessen energy use.
    • They buffer unwanted sounds and sights while offering habitat to many living creatures.
    • Trees provide a lengthy list of harvestable products.
    • Ecologically, they improve the quality of air and water, absorb excess water to help prevent flooding, offer wind breaks, and help reduce soil erosion.

    Trees and shrubs are important. Protecting and preserving what we have should be a priority, while replacing trees lost to development, disease and pests must comprise of well-thought-out plans established by community stakeholders, including residents.

    Within the urban forestry summary report, it includes where potentially ‘plantable’ areas exist in each community. These areas are defined as land not covered by buildings and paved surfaces. In Glen Ellyn, the most “plantable” space is residential land. While we may not want trees and shrubs occupying every open area around our home, perhaps consider adding trunked species gradually if you have the space and desire, or as your existing trees die. When choosing what to plant, there are many considerations to assess. What are your soil, sun, shade and hydrological conditions? How big will the tree/shrub become? Will it be messy? How fast will it grow? What can be planted close to a foundation without causing problems?

    Luckily, we live in a climate that can support a large diversity of species. We also have wonderful community resources, like the Morton Arboretum, which has knowledgeable personnel that can help answer your questions.

    Another consideration, which we often don’t think about, is what can the tree/shrub provide for us and our local wildlife? There are dozens of native trees and shrubs adapted to our regional climate and conditions, thus requiring little maintenance. Plus, our wildlife seeks sustenance and shelter from local plants. Many trees offer attractive flowers that appeal to us, but also feed beneficial insects. The subsequent berries or nuts can supply a nutritious snack for birds, squirrels or perhaps your family.

    There is a growing movement that supports creating edible landscapes that promote environmental sustainability, provide locally sourced harvests, and build community sociability. Think about your neighbors who eagerly offer their zucchinis and tomatoes. The act of sharing great tasting, homegrown food unites friends, family and strangers. Trees and shrubs can provide food as well. Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts readily grow here. Looking for fruit to eat, or turn into jams or juices? Serviceberry, chokecherry, sweet and sour cherry, plum, peach, pear, apple, elderberry, paw paw, currant, gooseberry, blackberry and raspberry shrubs and trees can grace your yards, kitchens, and neighbor’s plates.

    Landscapes change and evolve. As our community changes, we should continually assess what improvements can be made, including those related to our urban forest. How do our actions and choices impact the greenery that brought, and keeps, many of us here? We should be mindful of how can we enhance, protect, preserve, diversify and grow the beneficial surroundings we share.

    WHAT WE DO: The Glen Ellyn Park District manages over 250 acres of park land that includes thousands of trees and shrubs. Many of those have been planted and are maintained, while many have naturalized on their own. With the recent loss of many ash trees, the District has been actively replanting trees, both in traditional park settings, but also natural areas. Most of the installed specimens are native to the region and include several types of oaks. Many of the planted trees are small in size.

    Currently, municipalities and other institutions are planting younger trees that tend to have a more intact root system. Plentiful roots lead to healthier, faster growing trees. So when you see the little replacements going in – give them a few years to get established. Often young trees catch up and surpass the growth of larger ones planted at the same time simply because they had better roots.

    WHAT YOU CAN DO: Care for your trees and shrubs at home. Check on them periodically for signs of stress or disease. If you have newer plants, water them if there has been more than a week without rain. If you have mulch around the base, make sure it is not piled up against the trunk, which can lead to bark rot, mold and roots growing above the surface. If you want or need to add trees or shrubs, consider something native to the area or one that can provide you with visual, herbal or edible goodies.