Revitalizing Ravines

Revitalizing Ravines

By Larry McCotter

The Lake Bluff ravines in Illinois are very steep and empty into Lake Michigan. Storm water runoff is channeled to the ravines, increasing erosion. People have historically dumped garbage in the ravines. Lack of native plants and a proliferation of exotic species have adversely affected the health of the ravines. Last winter, the Village undertook some construction work in the ravines, which destroyed the native plant cover. This project was undertaken by the Lake Bluff Open Lands Association (LBOLA) to replace those plants. Residents and volunteers have seen the effects of revegetating the ravines.

More plantings are planned this fall. A cooperative agreement exists with the area middle school. Students planted 900-1,000 native wildflowers and removed exotics (Norway maple, buckthorn). A 200-yard width of the ravine, a one-half mile long was planted. Roads and houses are on each side of the ravine. The location is about 1000′ from Lake Michigan. Runoff enters the ravine and flows right into Lake Michigan. Because of the runoff, there is always water in the ravines unless there’s a drought. The water is usually shallow and slow moving.

How would you outline the steps in organizing your project to advise another group on a similar project?

1. Have good contacts in the schools and community.

2. Be sure the scale of the project is appropriate (i.e., that you have enough volunteers, equipment, and supplies).

How has the project affected your community?

The project has increased awareness of the importance of the ravines, both historically and aesthetically. Because the ravines convey storm water to Lake Michigan, many people typically thought of the ravines as a sewer system. That attitude is changing. People are gaining an increased respect for the native flora of the ravines and are appreciating the fact that they are “geological wonders” left by the glaciers.

What particular stumbling blocks, challenges, or defeats did you encounter?

The project required the cooperation of the Lake Bluff Park District and the Village. Recently, LBOLA and these organizations have enjoyed solid relationships, but haven’t always in the past. The local government has supported various interests. There has been a balancing act between the restore vs. develop land ethics.

How many people were involved?

The first year (Open Lands Day has been going on for 4 years) saw 25 volunteers. 2000 was the best year in terms of volunteers and plant survival rates. There were between 50 and 60 volunteers this year.

If possible, include an estimate of people-hours spent on the various aspects of the project.

-On Open Lands Day there were about 60 volunteers working 3 hours each (180 hours).

-LBOLA officers spent about 20 hours ordering plants and coordinating the event.

-20 hours were spent on putting the newsletter together.

So about 220 hours total were spent.

How was public involvement motivated and facilitated?

By creating and maintaining good relationships with schools. The newsletter notified people that it was that time of year again. Permanent sign boards were placed at two major road intersections to inform people of the event.

How was public education a component of your program?

Steep slopes are difficult to deal with. People have dumped garbage and leaves down the slopes. They didn’t realize that this kills native vegetation and causes erosion. This effort has informed people about how erosion is started at the top of the slope and about the importance of native plants. They’ve also become aware of exotic plant species, such as garlic mustard and Norway maples.

What was the primary means of communication?

Newsletters, notices in merchant windows, and special announcement sign boards at major intersections.

What resources were available/acquired/tapped into?

-GLAHNF $2,500

-Village of Lake Bluff $4,388.02 (plants)

-General Contributions $1,590.63

What level of media exposure were you able to obtain and how did it affect your efforts?

4,200 newsletters were mailed to the residents of the Village of Lake Forest. There was no media coverage although we did request it.

Lake Bluff Open Lands Association
PO Box 449
Lake Bluff, IL 60044

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.