Urban Rivers field trip

16 people gathered along the Chicago River by the Whole Foods at 1550 N. Kingsbury to hear Nick Wesley from Urban Rivers talk about the River and the efforts being made to make it clean, safe and useable.  He began by saying that numerous permits, requiring a lot of effort and patience, were required to even get started with the project.  He went on to talk about the need for the cleanup, namely that when there is an overflow of water in Chicago the city’s 2 water treatment plans allow raw waste into the river.  The city is taking steps to remediate this with adequate underground storage but that is still underway.  In the meantime Urban Rivers is using Phytoremediation which involves using plants and their associated microbes, to reduce the concentrations or toxic effects of contaminants in the environment. As the river water passes through “the Wild Mile’s root systems it will be filtered as the roots absorb the water, along with the substances in it.” (urbanriv.org)

So far plants have been in place on modules in the river for a year and four months.  The modules were assembled on land and anchored in place.  (See urbanriv.org for construction details.) Some of the plants in use are Hibiscus, Giant Ironweed, Spike Gayfeather, Canala Columbine, and Liatris Spicata.  These are plants identified by name markers.  To view a list of other plants used go to plants.urbanriv.org.

Vegetables were also planted and then tested for harmful results from the polluted water.  Surprisingly most of the vegetables tested were not contaminated except for Kale which had a high lead content. Trees which were planted and are being studied are River Birch and Paw Paw.

There are cameras checking the fish, birds, and wildlife inhabiting the area.

Nick discussed the Robot designed to clean up the River.  Hopefully by next year it will be actively cleaning up the debris on the River.

June 17 Field Trip: Batavia Wildflower Sanctuary

About 10 members and guests of the Garden Club recently visited the Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk. The Wildflower project began in 1991 during the development of the River Walk in Batavia. As in many other towns, the local residents sought to preserve the area along the Fox River from both unwanted private development and decay. Some of the new river walk features restaurants and public buildings, in addition to a very interesting collection of windmills.

see http://www.bataviahistoricalsociety.org/wmills.htm

The area adjacent to the river but north of the “cut”, a bridged stream flowing into the Fox River, was saved from development but contained an impassable, tangled mess of weeds, mostly buckthorn, a notorious non-native pest. With the cooperation of the Park District, some local community volunteers, including Nancy and Ed Weiss, got together to form the “Plain Dirt Gardeners” who helped weed out the buckthorn and renovate the large area into a meandering, attractive walk in a park-like setting along the river.  In place of the weeds, the volunteers planted beneficial native species.   Early on, Kane County Environmental Director Dick Young lent his assistance in this project.   Dick’s book:   Kane County Wild Plants & Natural Areas was, and still is, the primary reference in plant selection and retention. Today the Wildflower Sanctuary is a relaxing and beautiful walk featuring four different habitats, each with its own species of plants.

Fox River at Batavia River Walk
Fox River at Batavia River Walk

Our venerable tour guide was Nancy Weiss, who has been with the sanctuary from its inception. She was assisted by her husband, Ed, who herded us stragglers from the parking lot to the courtyard from atop his bike.

Nancy Weiss



The tour included woodland/floodplain, savannah, prairie, and rock shelf habitats.   We each received a checklist of the walk’s native plants and trees, approximately in the order we would encounter them in each of the habitats. Only some of the plants have markers, and the natives do tend to move around a bit. So it was helpful to have a written list; but most delightful were the guides’ personal descriptions of their experiences with the plants and their habits, typical of any conversation with a fellow gardener: (“Oh, this one is kind of a pest and we have to keep it controlled. That one just finished blooming and it was so pretty…”)

Photo by Linda Z.
Tour guide Ed Weiss with Garden Club members Marilyn and Lisa.



Elaine Allen and John Richter
Elaine Allen and John Richter

After the tour we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the nearby Apple Villa.  Some of the members finished the day with a visit to Hostas in the Garden with John Richter in Warrenville.




Thanks again to our Field Trip committee, Elaine Allen and Marilyn Brumund, for arranging a wonderful day.  ( Photos by Elaine Allen and Linda Zwierz)