Algonquin earns accolade for park conservation

ALGONQUIN – By restoring the native shrubs in Gaslight Park Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary, the village has earned a conservation award.

The village was awarded a 2012 Conservation and Native Landscaping Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chicago Wilderness, a nonprofit organization that works to restore local nature, for the restoration work performed in Gaslight Park.

The Conservation and Native Landscaping Awards recognize sites “that are exemplary in the use of native landscaping, ecosystem restoration and protection, and/or conservation design,” the village said in a news release.

The practices create and protect habitat for a variety of native plant and animal species and result in environmental benefits for people and nature, the village said.

“This award is another fine example of Algonquin using conservation methods to develop sustainable solutions to drainage problems,” Village President John Schmitt said in a news release. “Stormwater is now filtered naturally and recharges our aquifers we use for drinking water, and we no longer have the maintenance costs of mowing the site.”

This is the fourth award the village has received for conservation efforts since 2007, said Michele Zimmerman, assistant public works director for the village.

“It brings awareness to the community,” Zimmerman said.

The subdivision around Gaslight Park was built in the early 1980s, and stormwater was directed through a drainage ditch and creek.

Unfortunately, it was not properly maintained, became difficult to mow and allowed invasive species such as box elder and honeysuckle plants to sprout in the area, which led to erosion around the creek, Zimmerman said.

As stormwater ran off from the subdivision, it could pick up traces of gas and oil and other pollutants that were on the pavement, or pesticides on lawns, and flow through the creek and into the Fox River, Zimmerman said.

“The water can’t soak into the ground,” Zimmerman said. “It can’t filter stormwater.”

In 2009, the village removed the invasive plants and restored the area with native landscaping.

The $43,800 project, which took place in 2009, was paid for by developer wetland mitigation fees, Zimmerman said.

The village put in native prairie plants in the area, which have deep roots to hold the soil in place and prevented erosion, Zimmerman said. The native plantings created a habitat for birds and butterflies, while still maintaining the site’s stormwater capacity and filtration capabilities.

“Stormwater is something the EPA has been heavily addressing over the years ... and put in regulations in place to help treat [polluted water] ... and clean that up,” Zimmerman said.

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