Brother, can you spare an (old) parking lot
Suddenly, I'm in love with prairies
07/17/2009 4:50 PM
I spent a couple of great hours in Glenview this afternoon. In a real prairie, a little piece of nature that has been untouched for hundreds, if not thousands of years. A true preserve. I got to see what it really looked like when European settlers got here and had to traverse the tall grasses, flowers and bushes and shrubs that make up our real natural landscape in Illinois.
My friend Charlotte picked me up at the Wilmette train station and transported me to James Woodworth Prairie Preserve (named after a Chicago mayor). Charlotte co-wrote the “Prairie Directory of North America”--and has a front and back yard at her house in Wilmette that is so native and natural and indigenous that she inspires the wrath of many neighbors who prefer manicured lawns, fertilizer and border plantings of colorful annuals.
Charlotte is able to name all the plants at the preserve, which through a series of circumstances through the years has remained virgin prairie, despite decades next to a miniature golf course and a current life on a dreary strip of rundown restaurants and fast food establishments along Milwaukee Avenue. The land that the golf course was on is being restored to prairie, too--and it has an interpretative center on it, as well. We were supposed to help cut out invading plants (from places like Europe and China) but we spent so much time looking and talking--to a University of Illinois professor who oversees the whole operation who was working, too--that I never got a chance to use my brand new virgin pruners which I bought at South Loop Ace on State Street on the way to the train.
So what’s the connection to the South Loop Observer here? Other than bringing (albeit not using as a volunteer) a pair of pruners from the South Loop?
Well, I am dreaming of all the empty lots in the neighborhood that for now are unbuilt and otherwise unused, without plans for new high rises, townhomes or other structures--or even parking lots--on what’s left of old railroad land, pre-fire neighborhoods and torn down vice district quarters. Lots where “weeds” like fleabane and compass flower and milkweed strive to come through but have no tender restoration buffs to help them get a foothold and bloom into a new old prairie.
The old Dearborn Park 2 garden club? The Dearborn Park Advisory Council? South Loop Neighbors? Anyone want to take up the cause? There’s a bee balm crying somewhere that needs you.