Into The Wild: Visit the vast natural areas of the Byron Forest Preserve

The vast natural areas of the Byron Forest Preserve District include prairies, wetlands, woodlands and savanna ecosystems. Photo provided

As with “No Child Left Inside,” welcome to a new series of articles in partnership with Four Rivers Environmental Coalition (FREC) and The Rock River Times. In recognition of the United Nations designation of 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, the FREC presents this bi-weekly series to help readers discover the amazing array of plants and animals in the rivers, prairies and woodlands “in our own back yard.” FREC is an alliance of 35 member organizations “dedicated to educating and advocating for the plants, animals, natural resources and ecosystems of the Four Rivers Region.” Please visit www.fourriver.org.

By Richie Wolf
Superintendent of Education and Recreation, Byron Forest Preserve

The Byron Forest Preserve District was formed in August 1980. We are celebrating our 30-year anniversary this year, so it’s a great excuse to visit our vast natural areas, which include prairies, wetlands, woodlands and savanna ecosystems. Our main site consists of 477 acres, which includes 298.5 acres of dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve. The main site has rolling trails through all of these environments, and many types of flora and fauna can be observed and heard throughout.

Some of the more interesting bird species you may encounter include northern harrier, bluebirds and eastern meadowlark. We are proud of our natural area restoration projects, which help bring back rare plants like pasque flower, rough blazing star and woolly milkweed.

Within the last five years, we have greatly added to our property. The Nardi Preserve is a 293-acre parcel that was donated by a Chicago businessman in 2004. This particular property will be open to horseback riding beginning May 8 of this year. The land is being restored to its pre-settlement conditions by removing fencerows and non-native species through aggressive techniques.

Our White Preserve property is just south of the main site, and was purchased in 2004 using Illinois Open Land Trust grant money. It is open for limited use to the public, but is a valuable piece of the puzzle as we try to connect our properties as much as possible.

Visiting us is a unique and fun opportunity that enables you to step back and get a glimpse into the past. As more and more natural prairie land is eaten up by agriculture and development, you can be sure our little piece will never be manipulated into anything but pure, natural paradise. Please visit us any time or plan your trip using our Web site at www.byronforestpreserve.com.

From the April 14-20, 2010 issue