By Cheryl Green
Restoring parks can allow communities to come together peacefully and combat some of the crime that continues to permeate many neighborhoods. Though parklands are not just for recreation and play, they can inspire. Their beauty is engaging. They are pillars of the communities we live in. Without them, we would have much less wildlife or opens space within our cities and suburbs. Parklands are thus as important repository of native species and ecosystems, and must be sustained.
There has been evidence of a direct correlation between restoring ecosystems and sustained economic growth. If issues are addressed and we attempt to alleviate the impacts of climate change, the likelihood of growing our economy and increasing jobs by efforts to sustain parklands would be highly beneficial and could create an upward cycle of economic growth.
According to Land Restoration Projects on the SSF website, several projects are currently underway in Schaumburg to restore lands that are open fields back to native prairies and to promote biodiversity. Managing and restoring parklands, however, does not come without challenges. In many of our parklands, we face challenges associated with water damage, flooding, fires, and building restoration.
Parklands to most people serve as a place for family and friend gatherings. Native species within the parklands are not recognized in their habitat and as we dump hot coals from cooking grills, for example, we are damaging the land for these native inhabitants and for ourselves. We must maintain, protect, and in some cases ecologically restore natural lands to benefit not only native species but also create sustainable parklands where our descendants can properly maintain and enjoy then long after we are gone.
There are many benefits to parklands and maintaining them. Parklands help to reduce storm water runoff, as tree canopies reduce the fast rate at which rain falls to the earth. The water hits or enters the ground slower and is absorbed and filtered into ground water instead of running off impermeable surfaces. We know that plants and trees grow constantly and this process of rain filtering through trees called evapotranspiration can create water vapor in the atmosphere, leaving room for additional rain fall to pour into the soil with an even flow.
Parks and streets that have the presences of trees and increase property values by 15% more than comparable properties that are not near a park. Parklands reduce global warming as they absorb greenhouse gases. They provide a home for wildlife. Wild animals have special necessities for food and shelter. Particularly raccoons adapt well to urban environments, however, if raccoons maintained a parkland habitat, the chance of seeing a raccoon in urban communities would be less likely to occur. Wildlife requires a wide variety of plants and layers upon layer of forest coverage to scavenge and nest. Trees inside parklands can also provide a means for noise reduction. Other recreational benefits to humans are birding, hiking, bicycling, butterfly gardening, picnics, social activities, golfing, equestrian, dog-friendly areas and many more.
The Forest Preserve Enabling Act of 1913, legislation put in place and designed to have forest preserves manage and restore parklands, charged the district to restore, restock, protect and preserve lands. Restoring parklands preserves habitat wildlife and vegetation. According to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC), the increased need to improve biodiversity and enhance the quality of life for native species means that forest restoration activities are currently underway in 10,500 of the 68,000 acres across the district in Illinois.
As it stands, 9,000 trees have apparently been affected by what is called the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) marked thousands of trees with an orange X that indicates the impending removal of ash trees in response to the infestation which began in 2009. The Ash Borer is an insect/beetle from Asia that feeds on ash trees. Infected trees are hazardous to native habitat. According to the FPDCC, the cost associated with thousands of tree removals due to infestation and other issues is $1 million.
With the continued land management and park restoration, there is provision for increased education opportunities. Parklands offer environmental education workshops as well as guided tours. The Schaumburg Park District maintains 300 acres of preserved natural areas throughout the district. There are four designated conservation areas that provide wildlife habitat and allow residents to experience true wildlife nature close to home. These conservation areas are accessible to everyone by trails, etc. and they contain signs that aid in direction and provide explanation. The conservation staff at Spring Valley maintains these areas and they also conduct restoration and management activities along with other programs for residents and visitors.
- Gray Farm Park: 47 acres at Clover Dale Lane along the north of Schaumburg Road and has a bike trail, fishing lake, picnic gazebo and 35 acres of open water of cattail marsh. The marsh supports birdlife during winter and spring migration.
- Kay Wojcik Conservation: south of Schaumburg Road with 17 ½ acre of oak grove. Contains 100 year old oak and hickory trees.
- Park St. Claire Conservation: north of Schaumburg Road with rare wildflowers and 30 acres of wetlands and;
- Ruth Macintyre Conservation: east of Salem Drive between Wise Road and Weathersfield Way with 36 acre of open fields, wetlands and restored prairies.
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