Yesterday was Earth Day, and the Friends of the Chicago Parks celebrated on Saturday with its 23rd annual Earth Day volunteer Day. Around twenty volunteers showed up at Dunning Read on Chicago’s northwest side to beautify and restore this lovely little plot of land.
Related: Dunning Read Conservation Area is a Chicago undiscoverd natural urban wonder
This effort was just a small part of the overall volunteer effort that took place at parks all around the city. The biggest gathering usually takes place at Humboldt Park. Volunteers number in the thousands across the city and the suburbs.
Most of the volunteer efforts at other parks are clean up in nature. Last year I participated in a cleanup at Montrose Beach. The work at Dunning Read was restoration oriented as there is an abundance of invasive plants that need to be cleared in order to make room for native plants. WXRT held a cleanup at Dunning Read the day before, so another cleanup the day after was not necessary.
Dunning Read volunteers were treated to an effort lead by Mary Eileen Sullivan, Director of Volunteers for the Friends of the Parks (FOTP). She usually spends this day at the Humboldt Park effort as this park receives the highest number of volunteers, but this year she was able to entrust that effort to other FOTP employees and head over to Dunning Read to lead the restoration effort.
The volunteers who gathered in the conservation area parking lot, which is also the parking lot for the Read Mental Health Center, were given a quick informational introduction about the work at Dunning Read. Mary Eileen then passed out bags containing little plant pods that were to be planted in the islands of the parking lot.
Mulch had already been laid on the islands and volunteers then went to work planting plants like spiderwort and purple coneflower. I planted 40 little plants across my little parking island. I cannot wait to come back later in the year to see how well my work grows.
Once the plants had been planted it was time to take out some invasive species. Territory just south of the parking lot was full of invasive weeds. The group armed with shovels and wheel barrows went to work. It was a fun way to work up a sweat and getting a little dirty especially when rubbing shoulders with other volunteers. In the larger perspective, people were doing this not only all around the city, but also the country and even the world. Volunteering builds a community spirit, but also connects you to the earth itself as Earth Day is a global effort.
It is nice to know that for everyone who carelessly flicks their cigarette out the window, there is a person out there willing to pick it up. It is unfortunate that it has to work this way, but I think more and more people are coming to the other side. Conservation, restoration, and sustainability are not fads, but growing trends created by necessity. It was also nice to see a lot of young people out helping with the effort as a few high school kids were out digging up plants as well as ones even younger out with mom and dad.
If you missed the Earth Day activities, do not fret, there are always opportunities to volunteer in the future. In fact, there is restoration volunteer opportunities at Dunning Read the second Saturday of every month, so I will see you out there in May. Check out the Friends of the Parks calendar for more information on where and when to volunteer at Dunning Read or other Chicago Parks. After all, everyday is Earth Day.
Check out the map below for directions to Dunning Read.
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