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Enjoy Our Nature Play Area and StoryWalk Every Day

Explore the newly installed and ever expanding Nature Play Area in the fenced area east of pond. The area includes a walking path of raised tree slices, balance beams, a table and stools, building blocks, a teepee, and (when supervision is available) a rope swing. More families are using this area every day, including the picnickers in the photo above. 

Follow the wood StoryWalk kiosks along the South Woods Path and read the enclosed nature story page by page. A new story, "Are You a Snail?" by Allen and Humphrie is up for you and your children to read. 

Both the Nature Play Area and StoryWalk are integral parts of our Family Nature Days the last Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Summer is the Time to Take Your Children Outside

Are you looking for ideas that will tune your young children into nature this summer? Here are some newsworthy suggestions from the Department of Natural Resources Division of Education Field Trip Tips, from their Field Trip Packs. With your children, you can . . .

  1. Go for a walk.
  2. Dig in the soil.
  3. Look at the clouds.
  4. Sort through rocks.
  5. Explore your surroundings.
  6. Initiate play activities.
  7. Use all of your senses.
  8. Become aware of wildlife.
  9. Watch for changes.
  10. Ask questions and search for answers.

Large Mulberry Tree Falls Across Nature Preserve Path

If a tree falls in a forest and people are around to hear, it definitely makes a sound. Kay Capps, a PAC volunteer, was walking through the south woods around 11:30 a.m. on May 30, when a large white mulberry tree crashed across the path about 30 feet behind her.

“A horrible cracking sound caused me to turn around,” said Kay, “and I saw and felt the tree fall. People in the preserve thought it was firecrackers. Fortunately, no one was hurt.”

Kay immediately notified PAC Steward Tom Murphy who was on the scene within the hour. Here is Tom’s account:

“I went over and found a big mulberry between the second and third StoryWalk signs on the bypass trail. I set about cutting it up to clear the trail. Finally there was just one big branch to go. Just after I finished with it, I noticed movement in the branches and saw some checkered shorts. There were kids in there. Already! JJ and his two sisters found it to be great fun!”

“Finally the trail was as clear as I was able to do with my saw, and people were easily picking their way through. Heading out, I realized that I had left my gloves. As I returned to the tree, I spotted our 'resident' deer enjoying a tasty lunch!”

Deer Return to Nature Preserve

Recent deer sightings raise hopes that wildlife is making a comeback at West Ridge Nature Preserve. One of our PAC members, while strolling through our oak woods, captured the accompanying image of a deer happily making its way through the trees.

Two years of preserve construction, including removal of non-native growth, disturbed the existing ecosystem. Thus, the next three to five years require extraordinary efforts to care for and protect new and existing plants, shrubs, bushes and trees as well animals, birds and other species we hope to attract and nurture.

While deer are not our favorite wildlife species – they can be destructive to plantings – people do enjoy catching sight of them. Deer were prevalent in the preserve area pre-construction, but this is the first documentation we have had of their return. They come and go as they please, most likely jumping the fence from Rosehill Cemetery. We will keep an eye on them in terms of numbers and potential damage to plants and shrubs.

Frogs and Toads Are Making Their Presence Known

Love is in the air at West Ridge Nature Preserve. Have you been out for a pre-dusk stroll? If so, you may have heard loud chorusing sounds from all around the pond. These sounds are the mating calls of frogs and toads. You may even have seen some.

Frog Monitoring: We are in the process of participating in an area-wide scientific monitoring of amphibians, known as The Calling Frog Survey. Several of our PAC volunteers attended educational sessions to become monitors and you may see them recording air and water temperature, wind and other factors as they make their rounds around the pond, listening and watching.

Thus far, the monitors have seen and heard numerous American toads and heard a few cricket and Copes gray tree frogs.

The purpose of this effort is to learn more about and protect endangered amphibians. Data from the monitoring will be entered into a database for use by agencies, preserve districts, researchers and scientists for better managing and planning. 

Other Monitoring: As frog monitoring continues through July 10, the monitoring of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies is in the beginning stages. More information to come.

West Ridge Nature Preserve

Receives Advocacy Award

Linda Wilson, our PAC Vice President, holds award certificate with Juanita Irizarry, Friends of the Park Executive Director.

Friends of the Parks honored our Park Advisory Committee (PAC) with a Volunteer-in-the-Parks (VIP) appreciation award at a ceremony on Oct. 18, 2015. We were one of 16 groups and individuals recognized for our accomplishments.  

In presenting the award to our vice president, Linda Wilson, the Friends of the Parks lauded our advocacy efforts to create the West Ridge Nature Preserve, “working tirelessly with the Chicago Park District, alderman, and community members to make sure that the preserve would be a natural wonder in the community.”

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