Harbert Park clearing begins

Reviving natural areas in urban settings sometimes starts with chainlink fences and broken bottles. On Saturday, a group of volunteers came out to start the process in Harbert Park. We’re focusing on the overlook deck near McDaniel Avenue and Crain Street.

Big cottonwood trees shade this beautiful park. But over time, with limited city resources to devote to work like this, the channel banks have been overrun with weedy trees and layers of litter. The fence makes it tough to get onto the slope to clean up. On Saturday, a city greenways crew opened a section so volunteers could get in and make a start. Maggie Jones of Friends of the Chicago River and her volunteer team focused first on litter (left).

Greg finds a hawthorn under the buckthornVolunteers who’ve been working on other project sites and from the neighborhood took on the buckthorn and honeysuckle and cut back the grapevines. We aimed toward a cottonwood tree close to the channel’s edge, which we thought might make a good focal point for people looking out from the deck. Amidst the buckthorn, Greg found a small native hawthorn tree (right) and Judy found a native buttonbush. We’ll be working over the coming months to plant other native shrubs and flowers and to keep weeding and cutting back the tough invasive shrubs and aggressive vines so the new plants have a chance to establish themselves.

Channel comes into view as invasives are clearedAt the end of the morning, with some of the dense, weedy vegetation cleared away, we could see the channel water. Another clearing will be scheduled before we can plant this fall. We were glad to see neighbors out on Saturday—and grateful to Marcia and Terry for the treats!—as we work to make this beautiful park even more bird-friendly and beautiful.

—Wendy Pollock