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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.



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!


Follow up: March 25 workday

2 Apr

A small but resilient group of volunteers collected 8 bags-full of trash on a windy and cold Saturday morning. Thank you for your dedication to RBD!

We also saw a juvenile bald eagle get harassed by gulls, lots of overwintering praying mantis egg cases, and a dead coyote.
Not much is blooming, but rosettes of the biennial beach wormwood (Artemisia campestris caudata) are definitely getting a headstart on the growing season!

Follow up: October 29 workday

30 Oct

Our last workday of 2016 was awesome – we planted 1000 marram grass stolons!* Our goal was to encourage native plants to colonize the area around the new water filtration system on the north side of the nature area.


We had tons of volunteers, but I didn’t get many photos– too busy digging holes and planting stolons.


Just a fraction of the volunteers who planted marram grass.


*What’s a stolon anyway?

Stolons are specialized stems that run horizontally just under the soil surface. We can cut them apart and plant them separately.



Late autumn is beautiful across the dunes!






Follow up: May 28 workday

2 Jun


Our May workday was a great one, including students from Gary Comer College Prep, members of the Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Council, and other volunteers. We got a lot of work done, pulling by hand the invasive cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) from throughout the site.

Follow up: May workday

27 May

On this May workday, we flagged and marked another 500 or so Opuntia individuals – we will collect data for these plants later in the season. We love when families come out to help at RBD! Kids of all ages have a great time in the nature area. P1040144


We also saw an eastern kingbird and many native plants in bloom!



Follow up: October 25 workday

16 Nov

The Opuntia project is off to a great start. We are monitoring the native prickly pear population at RBD and have marked and collected data for more than 500 plants. (The population is estimated to be about 1500 plants.)

Many hands make light work, and our dedicated volunteers did a fantastic job in this first part of the project!


Scenes from July

15 Oct

Lobelia spicata

For some folks, summertime means fireworks at the beach. Unfortunately, these can be damaging to plants and animals in the nature area, they leave a mess behind (that volunteers kindly clean up), and of course are illegal in Illinois.


BBQing is an awesome and fun thing to do in the park as well, but coals should be dumped in the red charcoal trash bins, not on trees or the beach.


Public service announcements aside, we had a great workday! Everyone felt very accomplished about the significant eradication of the white sweetclover.

Followup: June 28 workday

5 Jul


The flowering plants at the Dunes are exploding this time of year. It’s very orange and yellow now. If you only visit Rainbow Beach Dunes once this year, I’d suggest going in the next couple weeks!

We had a great group at the Dunes last Saturday, on June 28: park neighbors, old friends, master gardeners, Chicago Cares volunteers.


We took a nature hike, and then went to work pulling weeds (cheatgrass) from between the cactus and little bluestem.


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The tree on the edge of the parking lot is gone!


Goodbye 2013; hello 2014

25 Mar

We sent our stewardship activities on winter break after our last workday of 2013, October 26.

Volunteers collected seeds from healthy little bluestem populations in the center of the nature area and dispersed them in the developing area on the east end.

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We started up again just last weekend, with volunteers collecting 4 big bags of trash! We’re ready to start the year with a clean slate.

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Recent workday photos

22 Oct

Autumn is a great time of year to collect seeds from native plants at the dunes because so many bloom in the summer time.

We’ve been collecting:
Dalea purpurea purple prairie clover


Liatris aspera
– rough blazing star

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Monarda fistulosa – wild bergamot

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Volunteers came from the South Shore neighborhood, Chicago Cares, Gary Comer College Prep, and elsewhere in Chicago.

Followup: June 22 workday

30 Jun


We had a small but mighty group attacking the leading edge of the cheatgrass! Thanks to volunteers from Chicago Cares and CPD for their hard work.

Followup: Invasive species management

17 Jun

We really attacked the cheatgrass, but the truth is we barely made a dent.



Nevertheless, our volunteers from Gary Comer and Chicago Cares had a blast!

Follow up: Clean-up and invasive species pull

6 May

Saturday morning we went out with Ms. Beals class from Gary Comer Middle School. Our goals were to collect trash and dig up the invasive species du jour, dandelions (Taraxacum officinale). Chicago Cares volunteers joined us too. By the time advisories from Gary Comer College Prep joined us in our mission, we had collected 8 bags of trash and every dandelion we could see.


A student carries a handful of dandelions and a bag of trash

Openlands black oak, 4/27/13 with Gary Comer College Prep and Chicago Cares

Openlands black oak, 4/27/13 with Gary Comer Middle School and Chicago Cares

Looking up close at an opossum skull

Looking up close at an opossum skull

Sunday, Ms. Cowgill and her class from Gary Comer Middle School came out to clean up trash at Rocky Ledge. In addition to filling more than 8 bags of trash and one of recycling, students found lots of cool rocks and shells and leftovers from the former steel mill next door.

Follow-up: winter cleanup

23 Mar

Thanks to students from Mr. Pruitt’s advisory class at Gary Comer Middle School who joined us on Saturday to clean up trash throughout the nature area!

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