Calumet Stewardship Initiative

2010 Summer

New Greencorps Chicago Calumet Program

By Nicole Kamins, Chicago Department of Environment

I am thrilled to announce a new program that is being developed by Chicago Department of Environment called Greencorps Chicago -  Calumet (GCC). GCC is funded by the USDA Forest Service through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The project begins in May 2010 and runs for approximately two years.

The program is based on the traditional Greencorps Chicago that offers horticultural instruction, plant materials and technical assistance to organizations who garden in a public space—including schools, faith-based institutions, libraries, public housing communities and block clubs. Greencorps Chicago also provides a green jobs training program for people with multiple barriers to employment to help them reenter the work force.

Greencorps Chicago - Calumet will focus most of its work in the Calumet region while expanding to include ecological restoration training for the crew members.  Nine crew trainees will be hired through delegate agencies and will get to practice ecological restoration in Calumet. The crew trainees will learn ecological restoration techniques to prepare them to plant native seeds, plugs, shrubs and trees, manage forested areas, apply herbicide to control invasive species and conduct prescribed burns. The Project Manager will be working with partners to create a calendar of trainings so the crew is ready for work in the field.  In addition to the restoration training, the crew will also participate in some of the traditional Greencorps Chicago training sessions including basic horticulture, environmental remediation, and more. Chicago Department of Environment is seeking crew trainees that are residents of the Calumet region.

There are many sites in the Calumet region of Chicago that need restoration.  We would love to hear about any sites you know of where Greencorps Chicago - Calumet could lend a hand. A project proposal form is being developed for partners to fill out and submit to us so we can assess projects and create a master schedule.

I want to welcome Zach Taylor of WRD Environmental as our new Project Manager for Greencorps Chicago - Calumet. He can be reached at (312) 287-3566 or [email protected]  to answer questions about proposed site work and other program details.  A hearty thank you to the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station for this invaluable opportunity.


Calumet Stewards – The Next Generation

By Rebecca Blazer, CIMBY, and Laura Milkert, Field Museum

On February 5, 2010 more than 100 high school students from five schools on Chicago's south side converged on the US Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Conference Center in downtown Chicago for CIMBY's annual Environmental Leadership Workshop. CIMBY (Calumet Is My Back Yard) is a 10-year-old environmental service-learning project founded by the BOLD Chicago Institute that engages Calumet-area high school students and teachers in long-term efforts to care for and learn about the region's forest preserves and other natural areas.

For this Friday-morning workshop, CIMBY students took a break from their usual stewardship
routines in Calumet natural areas, including cutting invasive brush, picking up trash and collecting and planting native seeds. Instead, they gathered in a business setting to learn about environmental career opportunities and to practice problem-solving skills with the help of an excellent group of guest environmental professionals.

CIMBY staff brought together seven Chicago-area professionals currently working in a wide variety of jobs within the environmental field - from a Student Conservation Association program director to a solar cell scientist at Chicago State University to the IL Department of Natural Resources' urban fishing coordinator. Meeting with CIMBY students in rotating small groups, the guest professionals first spoke about their jobs and the education and career path choices they made that got them to where they are today. Then they presented problem-solving exercises based on challenges that the professionals might face in the course of their work. With this format, students were able not only to practice important problem-solving, communication and collaboration skills, but also to get a feel for what it might be like to work jobs similar to those of the professionals they worked with.

At the end of a wonderful day of learning and connecting to the broader environmental world, students completed an evaluation of the workshop that yielded very positive reviews of the program specifically and the students' interest in the environment in general. When asked if environmental education activities like CIMBY had made a positive impact on them, 98% responded positively (69% replied "yes," 29% replied "somewhat").  When asked if they were interested in doing more to help the environment, 99% responded positively (73% replied "yes," 26% replied "somewhat").

Following are a few examples of the students' written comments about the workshop:
“The most interesting was the pollution in the air. I already knew about pollution in the environment. I just opened my eyes to look a little deeper.”

"So far it's going great and I feel as though I have an opinion and I have learned so much about the environment and what is going on right now."

"I love Environmental Day because it brings schools together that are interested in the same things as me. I liked learning about the solar cell.”

"The presenters were very informative. I believe I was quite interested in the green restoration of the city. I think what was most helpful is seeing that these agencies care about the environment as much as I do."

CIMBY staff and partners were pleased to find that these positive comments about the workshop from the students were seconded by our colleague at the US EPA who helped us secure the conference center. After the workshop, when we thanked him for his assistance, we got an email back from him saying that he had stopped in a couple of times during the workshop and was very impressed with what was going on, noting that the workshop was “very nice training for these sharp students." He ended by saying, "There is no need to thank me...seeing the next generation of environmental leaders was reward enough!!!"

Based on the positive feedback about the event from the students, the teachers and the guest environmental professionals, CIMBY’s 2010 Environmental Leadership Workshop was a huge success. Now, CIMBY staff and partners are working to harness the great momentum generated by the workshop and cultivate budding leadership potential through our summer intern program, which places approximately 25 students with local environmental organizations for paid summer internships.

We hope that some of these CIMBY students will go on to pursue careers in the environment and that all of them will continue to share their time and energy to care for the earth in some capacity in their adult lives.

Great thanks to the guest environmental professionals who very generously took time out of their busy workdays to share their energy and experience with the CIMBY students. They were: Dr. Mark Bouman, Prof. of Geography, Chicago State University; Mirtha Capiro, Environmental Scientist, US EPA; Doug Chien, Former Field Representative, Sierra Club; Brenda McKinney, Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources; Quiana Moore, Solar Cell Research Technician, Chicago State University; Rebecca Moss, Naturalist, Forest Preserve Dist. of Cook County; and Sam Vargara, Prog. Coord, Student Conservation Association.  


CIMBY students welcome experts.  (Photo by Jon Schmidt)

Adopt-a-Beach cleanup event at Calumet Park.  (Photo by Lloyd DeGrane)

Shirley Heinze Land Trust Volunteer Workday at Ambler Flatwoods--Boardwalk Construction (Photo by Ron Trigg)

Butternut Tree Named Official Tree of Riverdale

by Helen Denham, Village of Riverdale

The Village of Riverdale Board of Trustees approved a resolution naming the 360 year old butternut tree as the "official tree" of Riverdale.  The tree was measured by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Forestry Division, as being the largest butternut tree within the state of Illinois, standing 60' tall, (with) a crown span of 70', (and) a circumference of 14'8".

The butternut tree is recognized by its large, sometimes nearly three foot, compound tropical-looking leaves, and a broadly spreading growth form.  It is an uncommon species of tree growing in moist ravines and coves in forest communities east of the Mississippi River,  It is believed that the tree was part of an ancient moist forest in the area many years ago.

"It's an amazing tree, an ancient relic, a historical landmark to the Village," said Riverdale Arborist, Dave Shepard.  "It should be protected and recognized.  It's a sense of history, Native American."

The Arbor Day Foundation recognizes Riverdale as a "Tree City USA" community honoring the commitment of the Village to a comprehensive community forestry program.

For more information, please contact the Village of Riverdale Tree Commission, [email protected], or call 708-841-2000.

For additional archived videos of stewardship and conservation activities in the region check out Calumet resident, and past CSI secretary, Kevin Murphy's Calumet Stewardship YouTube account.

Photos and Videos