by Carl Strang
From the start of this blog, I have sung the praises of the restoration work that has been ongoing for many years at Mayslake Forest Preserve. The time is well past due for recognizing the person primarily responsible for that success: Conrad Fialkowski.
Recently I had the opportunity to watch Conrad in action. Mayslake was one of the hosts for a camp called Outdoor Explorers. The week-long, cooperative program brought children from four communities out to four forest preserves on a rotating basis. The children were selected for their limited opportunity to experience the outdoors (one boy asked me if there were any bears to worry about). One of their activities at Mayslake was to remove buckthorn and honeysuckle brush from a woodland, first step in its restoration. Conrad was masterful in his direction of this activity. The kids enjoyed wielding loppers and bow saws, and thanks to Conrad this was done safely and effectively. Conrad was especially effective in his recognition and support of the individual talents in each child. Here he poses with one of the groups of kids and their park district counselors in front of the mountain of brush they had cut.
But this is only the first step in the process. Much work remains for Conrad and co-steward Jacqui Gleason (who we’ll meet later; she joined Conrad in this effort three years ago). Those two volunteers put in many hours of difficult labor per week year round. They will need to keep the brush stumps from resprouting, and plant seeds to hold the ground gained through the kids’ effort. One of Conrad’s many secrets is the effectiveness of bottlebrush grass in preventing erosion and resisting the invasion of undesirable plants in the early stages of woodland restoration at Mayslake.
I have been getting a lot of compliments about the flower photos in this blog. You can thank Conrad and Jacqui for those plants’ having the opportunity to grow at Mayslake Forest Preserve.