Saturday September 8: Community stewardship workday

31 Aug
lobelia 2018


What amazing treasures have you found at RBD this year? Lately, we’ve seen 3 Lobelia species (L to R above: great blue lobelia, bog lobelia, cardinal flower), a beautiful tiger moth (Apantesis arge), and of course the grasses are flowering and turning shades of red, orange and yellow.

Come out to Rainbow Beach Dunes from 10am-12pm this Saturday September 8, 2018 to help pull weeds, pick up trash, and take a nature walk.

Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).
Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: sun protection, sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.
 …

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.


**Mark your calendar!**
Workdays in 2018 are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm:
LAST workday of 2018 on Saturday, October 13

RSVP to a Community Stewardship Workday here.

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Saturday August 11: Community stewardship workday

7 Aug
P1040921

Tis the season for blazing stars! We have two beautiful Liatris species (L. aspera, pictured above, and L. spicata) at Rainbow, and you might also see lobelia, grass of parnassas, the beginnings of fringed gentian, or some cute sedges in the panne (Carex aurea and C. comosa among others)

Come out to Rainbow Beach Dunes from 10am-12pm this Saturday August 11, 2018 to help pull weeds, pick up trash, and take a nature walk.

Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).
Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: sun protection, sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.
 …

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.


**Mark your calendar!**
Workdays in 2018 are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm:
Saturday, September 8
Saturday, October 13

RSVP to a Community Stewardship Workday here.

Saturday July 14: Community stewardship workday, aka summertime at the beach!

11 Jul

Midsummer is really one of the best times to see dune ecosystem shining – barn swallows nesting and swooping for insects, prickly pair cactus, 3 milkweed species, prairie clover, and bee balms all blooming to convince bugs to pollinate them with their bright colors and sweet nectar. 

Come out to Rainbow Beach Dunes from 10am-12pm this Saturday July 14, 2018 to help pull weeds (sweet clover and cheat grass), pick up trash, and take a nature walk. This is a great workday for the whole family – we always feel very accomplished after playing a game of spot-the-sweet-clover. 

Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).

Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Parking permits, tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.

 …

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.

**Mark your calendar!** 

Workdays in 2018 are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm:

Saturday, August 11
Saturday, September 8
Saturday, October 13

RSVP to a Community Stewardship Workday here.

June 9: Community Stewardship Workday

5 Jun
Displaying P1040709.jpg

The dunes are really coming alive this month, with new birds for the summer, monarch butterflies, and all kinds of plants welcoming visitors with their smiling flowers.

Come out to Rainbow Beach Dunes from 10am-12pm on Saturday June 9, 2018 to help pull weeds (sweet clover and cheat grass) and take a nature walk. This is a great workday for the whole family – we always feel very accomplished after playing a game of spot-the-sweet-clover.

Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).

Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.

**Mark your calendar!**
Workdays in 2018 are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm:

Saturday, July 14
Saturday, August 11
Saturday, September 8
Saturday, October 13

RSVP to a Community Stewardship Workday here.

CANCELED May 12: Community Stewardship Workday

7 May

Spring is moving along quickly now. Migrating birds are passing through and color is starting to alight on the dunes.

The invasive sweet clover is soaking up the rays, turning green and bushy.

IMG_2295

Come out to Rainbow Beach Dunes from 10am-12pm on Saturday May 12, 2018 to help pull weeds and see what else is waking up on the dunes. 

Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).

Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.


Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.


**Mark your calendar!**

Workdays in 2018 are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm:

Saturday June 9
Saturday July 14
Saturday August 11
Saturday September 8
Saturday October 13

RSVP to a Community Stewardship Workday here.

….
Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!

Find directions and a map here.

Saturday 4/28: Chicago City Nature Challenge at RBD

20 Apr

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 7.20.13 PM.png

Join friends, neighbors and other volunteers at Rainbow Beach Dunes on Saturday 4/28, 10am-1pm to participate in the Chicago City Nature Challenge.

It’s a Bioblitz where we will take pictures of ALL the species we find in the nature area (and throughout the whole park) and upload them to iNaturalist! Since there are unique plants and animals in a dune ecosystem, we’ll be able to make a special contribution to the Chicago region; there are several species on this list of Species to Find! that we will easily see at RBD.

No experience in plant/animal ID is necessary. We will use the program iNaturalist, so it will be helpful if you’ve signed up for iNaturalist and downloaded the app to your smart phone. If you can stay for lunch, we encourage you to bring snacks or a dish to share with other hard-working volunteers.

Please RSVP here!

Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.
 …

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut. 
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.

 

P1040616

Followup: April 14 workday

18 Apr

Spring may have officially sprung in Chicago, but it seems to keep recoiling amid wind, rain, snow, and cold. There were mighty waves along the shore on April 14 and practically no beach in front of the nature area!


Waves came up all the way to the marram grass, submerged the ephemeral wetland on the southeast end of the beach, and fully filled the swale.

But we had intrepid volunteers who came out despite the cold and wind! We found an owl pellet and noted that even the earliest flowerers (sand cress and bearberry) aren’t flowering yet.

Thanks to first time volunteers Sam and Bryan! Hope you come out again when the weather is better.

P1070318

Start of the 2018 stewardship season

1 Apr

 

Happy spring!
Rainbow Beach Dunes needs you – like usual, winter storms brought all kinds of trash and treasures ashore.

Join us to clean up the beach and nature area at the first RBD community workday of the season: 10am-12pm on Saturday April 14, 2018.

Rosettes of beach wormwood (Artemisia campestris) are the first leaves to green up in the spring. Soon we’ll see beach cress (Arabidopsis lyrata) and then bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) will be flowering. 

We also got a Christmas gift from the Chicago Park District: three new Jack Pines surrounding a nascent panne behind the secondary dune.

P1070307

Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).
Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.

Mark your calendar-
workdays in 2018 are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm:

Saturday, May 12
Saturday, June 9
Saturday, July 14
Saturday, August 11
Saturday, September 8
Saturday, October 13
RSVP to a Community Stewardship Workday here.

 …

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.


Want to support the Rainbow Beach Park community and learn about all kinds of events and programs in the Park? Join the Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Council, attend a meeting on the 4th Monday of the month at 6:30pm in the Fieldhouse, and certainly visit their Facebook page to learn more.

 

Scheduled Community Stewardship Workdays for 2018

28 Feb

P1050455

Happy New Year!

Mark your calendar- workdays in 2018 are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm:

Saturday, April 14
Saturday, May 12
Saturday, June 9
Saturday, July 14
Saturday, August 11
Saturday, September 8
Saturday, October 13

RSVP to a Community Stewardship Workday here.

October 28: marram grass planting

19 Oct

p1050272

Come out to RBD for the last community stewardship workday of the year! If you’re familiar with the dune ecosystem, you know all about the importance of marram grass as a stabilizing species — on Saturday October 28th we’ll plant a small, weedy area near the parking lot with this native plant! We’ll be there at the usual time 10am-12pm to do some planting and take a nature walk through big bluestem, switchgrass, canada wild rye, and little bluestem, turning the dunes into a vibrant sea of grasses.

Join us Saturday October 28 from 10am-12pm!  Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.

Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).

Want to support the Rainbow Beach Park community and learn about all kinds of events and programs in the Park? Join the Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Council, attend a meeting on the 4th Monday of the month at 6:30, and certainly visit their Facebook page to learn more.

 
**Mark your calendars**
See you next time in March 2018!

….

 

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!
  • Find directions and a map here.

August 26: Community Stewardship Workday at 9:00am

17 Aug

Come out to Rainbow Beach Dunes on Saturday August 26 at 9:00 am to take a nature walk, clean up the nature area, and join birders from around Chicago!

Rainbow Beach Dunes and all of Rainbow Beach Park support permanent resident birds, as well as migrants throughout the year. All the work we do to improve the quality of the habitat makes it even more appealing for our animal friends.

As part of “Give Back to Birds Work Day,” birders from around Chicago will join us at 9am for stewardship work at the Dunes. If you want the chance to see migrants on their way through the Lake Michigan Flyway on an early morning bird walk, meet in the east parking lot at 7am! More details about this event here.

  • Early morning birdwalk with veteran birders Christine Williamson, Geoff Williamson, and Dave Willard begins at 7:00. More details here.
  • Community stewardship workday on Saturday August 26 from 9am-11am. Please note the earlier start time for the workday.
  • Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants, bug repellent, and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided.
  • Please RSVP for the workday here. Questions? Contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com).

Want to support the Rainbow Beach Park community and learn about all kinds of events and programs in the Park? Join the Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Council, attend a meeting on the 4th Monday of the month at 6:30, and certainly visit their Facebook page to learn more.

**Mark your calendars!**
Remaining 2017 community stewardship workdays at RBD:
Saturday September 23, 10am-12pm
Saturday October 28, 10am-12pm

….

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end, from Hwy 41 at Farragut.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!

Find directions and a map here.

Follow up: July 22 workday

1 Aug

A small but mighty group of volunteers removed five bags full of sweet clover and other weedy invaders. It was a beautiful day and we remain so pleased with our efforts – just a few years ago sweet clover was a pernicious invader throughout the entire nature area. Now it takes only a few volunteers to spot check a few times a year to maintain a relatively sweet-clover-free zone (despite nearby source populations in the millions). This is success in urban land management!

 

July 22: milkweed and community stewardship

17 Jul

P1060013.jpg

Did you know there are four milkweed species in bloom right now at Rainbow Beach Dunes? Bring on the monarchs! We’ll see all four THIS SATURDAY at the July RBD stewardship workday. Clockwise from upper left: 1) Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly milkweed, 2)Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed, 3) Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed, 4) Asclepias verticillata, whorled milkweed. RSVP here.

  • Have you see the South Side Weekly article about co-stewards Jen and Alison? We’re so proud of and grateful for all the work that volunteers have done at this site over the years! There are also interviews with stewards from Jackson Park (Jerry Levy) and McKinley Park (Katie Flores and Heather Breems). 
  • Did you know that you can find out more about events throughout all of Rainbow Beach Park by attending the RB PAC meeting on Monday July 24 and liking their Facebook page? Upcoming events include the Soul Coast 5k, movies, music, and wellness activities for the whole family. 
  • Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: there is no shade in the hilly, uneven dunes area, so wear sturdy shoes and bring a hat, sunscreen, and water. Tools, training, and snacks will be provided.

    Contact stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com) with questions.

    Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.

    • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
    • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end.
    • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
    • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
    • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
    • Go to the far right corner of the parking lot farthest from the field house at the entrance to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner! 

    Find directions and a map here.

    *Mark your calendar*
    remaining scheduled workdays for 2017:

    • August 26 2017
    • September 23 2017
    • October 28 2017

June 24: Community Stewardship Workday

14 Jun

Join fellow volunteers at the next Rainbow Beach Dunes stewardship workday on Saturday, June 24, from 10am-12pm. 

Summer is in full swing and RBD is bloomin’! Co-steward Jen Raber will lead the workday and you’ll look for flowering prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), purple prairie-clover (Dalea purpurea), and the incomparable beauty, wild white indigo (Baptisia alba).

Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Council is also partnering with the MWRD and their “Restore the Canopy, Plant a Tree” initiative.canopy_logo

Look for a table near the nature area on 6/24 where you can take home and plant your own oak sapling in your yard or on the public way! Lots of research shows that urban trees are of huge importance in: reducing the urban heat island, sequestering carbon, creating aesthetically pleasing views, increasing greenspace, cleaning the air, and when our community and neighbors are involved in taking care of nature around our homes, we are all better environmental stewards.

RSVP here!

Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: there is no shade in the hilly, uneven dunes area, so wear sturdy shoes and bring a hat, sunscreen, and water. Tools, training, and snacks will be provided.
Contact stewards Alison Anastasio (alison.anastasio@gmail.com) or Jen Raber (jennifer.raber@gmail.com) with questions.
Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets.
  • By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
  • By car, you can only access the park at the southern end.
  • From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
  • From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
  • Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Fieldhouse.
  • Go to the end of the parking lot closest to the Nature Area. Meet at the banner!

Find directions and a map here.

*Mark your calendar*
  • July 22 2017
  • August 26 2017
  • September 23 2017
  • October 28 2017

RBD featured in South Side Weekly

4 Jun

Check out the recent article in South Side Weekly featuring RBD co-stewards Alison and Jen!

 

The Eyes, Ears, and Voices of the Parks

All public parks in Chicago can have stewards, volunteers who takes care of the wildlife and perform public outreach. The Weekly spoke to five of them.

L-R: Heather Breems, Jennifer Raber, Katie Flores, Jerry Levy, Alison Anastasio (Rohan Patrick McDonald)

Alison Anastasio and Jennifer Raber, Rainbow Beach Dunes Stewards

It’s all landfill underneath here.” Alison Anastasio gestured to the thriving grasses around her. Orange flowers dotted the field, while waves rolled onto the beach a few feet away. “I think that that is really incredible,” she added. “Here’s a little strip of land in between a parking lot just up the street from an old steel mill, on top of slag, and it’s doing a lot of things that the ecosystems in the Indiana Dunes do.”

Anastasio is one of the stewards for Rainbow Beach Dunes (RBD), located in Rainbow Beach Park on 77th Street and South Shore Drive. As stewards of RBD, Anastasio and Jen Raber organize monthly workdays, where they lead groups of volunteers in maintaining the park by picking up litter, pulling up invasive plants, and planting seeds of native plants.

Anastasio began stewarding in 2009, as she was finishing her PhD degree in ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. Once she had the time to explore the nature around the city, Anastasio fell in love with the dunes that characterize the Calumet region. After learning about the stewardship program from a friend, Anastasio reached out to the Chicago Park District. “I didn’t know there was such a good-looking dune habitat [here],” she said, as she first learned about RBD when the Parks District gave her a list of sites that needed stewards. Anastasio revitalized the stewardship program at RBD by reaching out to both the local community and Chicago’s wider network of nature organizations, building up a core group of volunteers.

Two years ago, Anastasio emailed the RBD mailing list for help with stewardship responsibilities. Between working full-time as a dean for the UofC’s MD-PhD program and organizing workdays by herself, she needed support. Raber, who had previously volunteered at RBD a few times, responded. After volunteering at parks across Chicago, Raber wanted to be more deeply involved with Chicago’s nature sites. “Showing up as a volunteer is fun and everything, but it’s more of an enriching, deeper experience when you’re responsible for the site,” she said.

RBD is a relatively new nature area, as the entire lakeside area used to be a manicured beach. In 2004, the Park District found that marram grass, one of the few plants that can grow on open sand, was growing on the beach. As marram grass is important in allowing for developing and stabilizing dune ecosystems, the Park District designated part of the beach as a natural area to support the growth of diverse plant species.

For Anastasio, who lives on the Far South Side, the most rewarding part of stewardship is “interacting with people who didn’t know that this was here, especially people that live in the neighborhood.” Local engagement has increased since 2009, thanks in part to Anastasio’s early efforts in community outreach. RBD now has partnerships with local high schools and receives about one hundred volunteers each year. RBD has also expanded its programming beyond workdays, partnering with the Bird Conservation Network to host bird-watching walks.

Raber lives near Montrose Beach and values how stewarding allows her to build a strong relationship with a nature site. “If I weren’t a steward, if I were just being a normal volunteer, even if it was Montrose or someplace near my house, I just feel like I wouldn’t have that deeper connection.” Raber and Anastasio want to share RBD with even more people in the future. “I feel like it still slides under the radar a little bit,” Raber says.  “I just want to expose people [to RBD] and have them have a good experience,” Anastasio said, “and if we can get some weeds pulled, that’s great.” (Maggy Liu)

[CONTINUE READING HERE]

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