Meet Conrad

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.

Conrad b

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.

Conrad & group 1b

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.

Bottlebrush grass b

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.

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6 Comments

  1. November 9, 2009 at 6:44 am

    [...] became aware of the impressive restoration progress being made out beyond the mansion grounds by Conrad Fialkowski. I can think of no better word to describe Jacqui and Conrad than dynamos. They are out there at [...]

  2. December 2, 2009 at 6:58 am

    [...] assisted by other volunteers, stewards Conrad Fialkowski and Jacqui Gleason continued removing buckthorn bushes from the edges of the savanna. They augmented [...]

  3. February 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    i am so glad to hear conrad is still “kickin it” over at mayslake. i worked with him years ago over at mayslake, doing restoration work. i have some pics too of one of our workdays. one fond memory i have is of conrad standing on top of brush pile we built, never losing his balance, and just continuing to monitor this pile so it would burn proper. please give him my regards. :-)

  4. April 7, 2010 at 6:06 am

    [...] the entire season, some of the credit for this goes to Mayslake’s volunteer restoration stewards, Conrad Fialkowski and Jacqui Gleason. They have been clearing brush and girdling trees around the marsh for several [...]

  5. June 8, 2010 at 5:59 am

    [...] a previous post I mentioned how Mayslake Forest Preserve’s chief restoration steward Conrad Fialkowski has developed the technique of spreading bottlebrush grass seed in areas from which invasive brush has been removed. Last fall [...]

  6. August 16, 2011 at 5:47 am

    [...] Conrad Fialkowski showed me another new one at that marsh, which as far as he knows did not grow at Mayslake before this year. Hop sedge has impressive large fruiting heads. [...]


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