Creating Better Habitat for Birds (and People) at Gillson Park Review – A Remarkable Day

Plants waiting to be set in the ground

On a beautiful Sunday morning a in late September, I found myself working along side many Wilmette residents, neighbors that I did not know.  Everyone was busy.  Some used an auger to create holes, others separated plants.  Aditional people set the plants in place according to a master plan created by the design firm of Living Habitats, with Heidi Natura as landscape architect for the project (and also Founder and Partner at Living Habitats),and finally other people enclosed the plants in soil.  Luckily for all of us, it rained later in the day. I was struck by the energy and camaraderie I experienced during the three hours I spent volunteering. When Karen Glennemeier, an ecologist working with the Wilmette Park District, and Heidi Natura first presented this plan they suggested that 200 vounteers could create a new habitat in one weekend. In fact Karen's great organizational skills brought out many more people.

Some plants in place

A note from Karen Glennemeier to the volunteers she recruited and organized:

 

"Hello wonderful Gillson volunteers!

I thought you all might like to know that there were 345 of us this weekend, at an average of about 3 hours' work each, adding up to 1,038 hours of work!

The weekend was a huge success, and I didn't see anybody who wasn't smiling, whether crouched over an auger, digging in the dirt, or knee-deep in mulch.

We created something lasting, important, and beautiful this weekend, and it would not have happened without all of us coming together.  Thanks for being a part of it, and please visit often to watch it grow and enjoy the birds!"

 (See the volunteer list below)

 

Two beds

Here is the back story. The Wilmette Park District received funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to improve habitat for migrating birds at Gillson Park.  In the spring and fall, the Lake Michigan shoreline receives a high concentration of warblers and other migrating birds who find themselves over Lake Michigan at sunrise and need a place to rest and eat.  Providing better habitat for these birds will not only improve their chances of surviving the long trip north (and back south), it will provide countless opportunities for Wilmette residents and visitors from other communities to enjoy watching these colorful visitors to our parks.

 

Migrating birds use habitat that has many different layers – tall, medium, and short. Since Gillson Park already contains many large trees, the focus of habitat improvements is to add more layers underneath these existing trees, including understory trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.  Each layer provides different food sources and meets different shelter needs.  A high diversity of native plant species within these layers will provide a variety of food sources and support a high diversity of bird species. 

 

Volunteers working in several beds

The vision for the Gillson bird habitat is to create bands of habitat that will connect existing trees to each other through groupings of smaller trees, shrubs, and wildflowers of many different species.  The plan includes open spaces to maintain a light, open feel, as well as places to sit and enjoy the view.  The result will be a variety of colors and textures from spring through fall, and even winter, providing a peaceful place for people to stroll, watch birds, take pictures, and otherwise get a good dose of nature along our beautiful lakefront.

 

The funding is $60,000 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, with an equal amount required to be spent by the Park District as matching funds.  The Ouilmette Foundation has committed to raising these matching funds and supporting the Park District’s goals to increase natural habitat within our parks.  Community participation in planting and maintaining the habitat will leverage this funding so that we may improve as much habitat as possible.

 

A view from the street

More about migrating birds:

In the spring and fall, our shoreline receives a high concentration of warblers and other migrating birds who find themselves over Lake Michigan at sunrise and need a place to rest and eat. Creating better habitat for these birds will not only improve their chances of surviving the long trip north (and back south), it will provide countless opportunities for Wilmette residents to enjoy watching these colorful visitors to our parks.

 

Migrating birds use habitat that has many different layers – tall, medium, and short. Since Gillson Park already contains many large trees, the focus of habitat improvements will be to add more layers underneath these existing trees, including understory trees, shrubs and wildflowers.  Each layer provides different food sources and meets different shelter needs.  A high diversity of native plant species within these layers will provide a variety of food sources and support a high diversity of bird species. 

 

A note from  Go Green Wilmette

"Nearly 350 volunteers worked with Park District staff and the Ouilmette Foundation for the Parks to plant 20,000 native plants in Gillson Park in an unprecedented show of community spirit. Twenty different community groups provided volunteers, but Go Green Wilmette won the prize for the largest team with 55 smiling and energetic volunteers. Thanks to all that helped!  See photos on Go Green Wilmette's Facebook page - and like us! Be sure to visit the area at the north end of the park, just south of Lake Avenue. "

 

Two days later-volunteers gone and plants are in place

Volunteers were from:

Boy Scouts

Chalet Nursery

District 39 Gardens

Evanston Treekeepers

Fonseca Martial Arts

Gillson Birders and Evanston North Shore Bird Club

Gillson Sailing Community

Gillson Triathletes

Girl Scouts

Go Green Wilmette

Hollywood Court neighbors

Interfaith Community

League of Women Voters

The Little Garden Club of Wilmette

Logic Lawn Care

The Rock House

Rotary Club of Wilmette

Tennis Friends

Wilmette Historical Society

Wilmette International Club

 

Photos by: Karen Glennemeier unless otherwise noted.

 

Walking through Gillson on a beautiful day

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