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Local

St. Charles Park District receives grant to restore Otter Creek

ComEd and Openlands awarded the St. Charles Park District a $6,450 environmental grant through the annual ComEd Green Region Program to fund a restoration project at Otter Creek Bend Wetland Park.
ComEd and Openlands awarded the St. Charles Park District a $6,450 environmental grant through the annual ComEd Green Region Program to fund a restoration project at Otter Creek Bend Wetland Park.

ST. CHARLES – ComEd and Openlands awarded the St. Charles Park District a $6,450 environmental grant through the annual ComEd Green Region Program to fund a restoration project at Otter Creek Bend Wetland Park.

Located along Crane Road, between Bolcum Road and Silver Glen Road, this 71.9-acre park features a model, restored wetland with interpretive signage, gravel walking trail system, creek bridge and stone overlook. The project is part of an effort to make the park more attractive to visitors as well as introduce a greater variety of native species to produce a richer habitat for local flora and fauna, according to a news release from the St. Charles Park District.

This past winter, the district’s ecological restoration staff began removing a mass of woody shrub species that obscured views of the wetland from the parking lot. The plan was to replant this sloping ground with a mix of native forbs and grasses that would create a scenic and pollinator-friendly habitat.

Following the clearing of the area, the district contracted Bluestem Ecological Services to complete the planting of a native seed mix and plant native plugs on the slope. Bluestem will visit the site in coming months to perform on-going stewardship work with weeding and non-native species removal. Park District naturalists have helped maintain the new plantings with on-going watering and other stewardship assistance.

“We hope that visitors to Otter Creek Bend Wetland will enjoy the views of the wetland and this specific restoration as it becomes an established part of the landscape of this unique park,” Chris Gingrich, the district's assistant superintendent of outdoor education, said in the release.

ComEd and Openlands announced earlier this month that the St. Charles Park District is one of 26 public agencies in northern Illinois to receive an environmental grant from the organizations through the annual ComEd Green Region Program.

Since the inception of the Green Region Program in 2013, ComEd has awarded more than $1.3 million to municipalities across northern Illinois to help fund their open-space projects. ComEd provides the funding, and Openlands, one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation, administers the grants to local communities.

“Together with our partners at Openlands, we are proud to support organizations that are making meaningful differences to restore and enhance natural habitats and biodiversity,” said Melissa Washington, vice president of governmental and external affairs at ComEd, in the release. “It’s the perfect balance of meeting our future energy needs and powering a brighter and more sustainable future for our customers and the communities we serve.”

Because of a recent decline in pollinators throughout northern Illinois, and strong interest in pollinator conservation, the 2019 Green Region projects again focus on advancing and protecting the region’s essential pollinator species. Earlier this year, public agencies from across communities that ComEd serves submitted grant applications, which were then reviewed by an advisory committee composed of county government officials and members of the region's conservation community.

“The ComEd Green Region Program is an important commitment to sustainability across northern Illinois and a commitment to providing residents with access to natural open spaces,” said Jerry Adelmann, president and CEO of Openlands, in the release. “Over the last seven years, we’ve seen how the Green Region Program has helped communities enhance many parks and trails for learning, enjoyment, and supporting wildlife, and the support from ComEd has been vital. We extend our gratitude to ComEd, and we want to thank the many partners who have implemented these projects across the region.”

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