Spotlight on Service:  Fighting Invasive Species with the Friends of the Green Bay Trail

Spotlight on Service:  Fighting Invasive Species with the Friends of the Green Bay Trail

Phil_KiralyBy Village Manager Phil Kiraly

As I shared in a previous Village Manager’s blog, I will be spotlighting our local volunteer organizations and their efforts to make Glencoe (and in many cases, the surrounding region) a better place. These organizations provide strong civic leadership and I’m so proud to highlight  the work that they do for our community. The talent and drive of all our residents continues to impress me. In this blog specifically, I’d like to spotlight the good work of the Friends of the Green Bay Trail.

Friends of the Green Bay Trail

The Friends of the Green Bay Trail began as a small band of residents (led by the incomparable Betsy Leibson) interested in working to remove buckthorn and other invasive species in the community. This small group of neighbors and friends has blossomed into a robust volunteer organization with a mission to create and maintain a healthy habitat along the Green Bay Trail. In the intervening years since its creation, the Friends have planted more than 300 native trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and sedges and invested more than $200,000 (and who knows how many volunteer hours) in trail restoration in this area. If you run or bike the trail frequently like I do, you’ve seen their amazing trail restoration efforts between Scott Avenue and Harbor Street.

PICBut this wasn’t enough for the Friends and they began working on the next phase of their efforts. In 2016, working in partnership with the Village and the Glencoe Park District, the Friends embarked a plan to improve more of the trail, this time focused on the area dubbed SOSA (South of South Avenue). Located between South Avenue and the Glencoe Community Garden, and bounded by Shelton Park to the east and railroad tracks to the west, hundreds of invasive plants such as Buckthorn and Poison Ivy (as well as numerous dead trees and other invasives) were removed to make way for a carefully curated landscape that sought to reintroduce native plants, trees, shrubs and (soon to be) wildflowers and beautify the trail area. Fundraising efforts to complete trail restoration began in 2017 and an additional $100,000 was raised for this effort. Planting began in early 2018 and the initial installation has been completed. 

mapThroughout this project, those involved also worked closely with experts from the Chicago Botanic Garden, who shared their extensive knowledge regarding the restoration of natural areas. Our consultation with the Chicago Botanic Garden focused on providing a planting plan for the project area for optimum success based on the soil and sun in each segment. Their knowledge was invaluable in providing a sustainable and native habitat.

It takes a Village to make these efforts successful, and that includes engaging with neighbors and others impacted by changes in the way the trail looks and feels. I’m grateful for the many neighbors that shared concerns with us and with the Friends as we worked to develop this plan, as it undoubtedly made for a more successful effort.

Apart from the ecological benefit, the trail restoration work completed by the Friends has provided many opportunities for our youth to be more connected to their environment. The Friends have hosted educational programs for Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Glencoe’s schools. Several Boy Scouts have worked on Eagle Scout programs on the trail with input and guidance.

Educational signage is located in the restoration area that teaches Trail visitors about pollinators and invasive plants, and as a component of that educational campaign, a butterfly hatchery was installed. 

The partnership between the Village and the Friends continues to grow, as does the habitat improvements on the Green Bay Trail. No matter where you live in Glencoe, I encourage you to take a walk or bike ride up the trail to enjoy the work of these talented volunteers. Learn more about the Friends, join them at the annual Buckthorn BBQ, attend the Green Bay Trail Day on Saturday, August 3, stop by an lend a hand for one of their trail work days, or simply enjoy the amazing community amenity they have helped improve.

Thanks to the Friends for all that they have done and will do to make Glencoe’s portion of the Green Bay Trail an open and inviting place for all!