Many Hands Make a Big Difference

All, Stories

On the corner of Riddle Road and Springfield Pike, a sliver of Glenwood Gardens is nestled in among the neighbors of the City of Woodlawn. With the Mill Creek winding through it, it has the potential to host a variety of wildlife and wildflowers in the midst of a quick-moving urban environment. Throughout the years, however, this corner had become overgrown with invasive plants like garlic mustard and honeysuckle. As it became overgrown, it became a haven for some not-so-desirable activities like illegal dumping. In 2015, Great Parks’ staff began working with volunteer groups to change the outlook for this tiny corner of land.

Step 1: Get rid of the honeysuckle
The project kicked off in August 2015, with Assistant Landscape Manager Kurt Goldick leading the removal of a thick overgrowth of invasive plants.

Trillium Preserve – before

Trillium Preserve – after


Step 2: Clean up the garbage
Community volunteers came out on a blustery day to pick up the illegally dumped piles and the trash flowing in from a large storm drain on September 26, 2015, National Public Lands Day.

Illegally dumped items included an entire kitchen sink

A concerned Woodlawn citizen (front) wrote a letter to Great Parks outlining his concern for the area and getting the project going. Here he is walking the talk!

Step 3: Plant trees
About 80 Wyoming High School students, chaperones and staff stopped by Glenwood Gardens in October for a service-learning project with Great Parks’ natural resource staff. Some students cleared invasive plants on the Wetland Loop trail, and a large group helped to plant nearly 100 native trees.

Step 4: Keep it clean
A small, but energetic, group of 14 Sycamore High School seniors worked with our operations staff for a storm drain litter cleaning in April 2017. In only three hours, the group removed 18 bags of recycling, 15 bags of trash, 4 tires, 1 shopping cart and a pane of glass from a door.

Step 5: Keep going!
Although it’s small, this area at Glenwood Gardens is important for the people and wildlife around it. During the first clean-up, we noticed a beaver’s handiwork along the Mill Creek and birds along the quiet space of the water’s edge. It’s good to know with every project, the area is becoming cleaner, safer and more inviting for the native wildlife and wildflowers that should be living here.

As Volunteer Week 2017 draws to a close, Great Parks’ volunteer services department has to thank all of Great Parks’ many community, corporate, school and long-term volunteers. All of the areas and activities they contribute to – whether they’re large, small or in-between – are important in their own way, and we couldn’t accomplish what we do as a park district without the amazing community that supports us!

Niki Marengo, Volunteer Services Coordinator