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Local

Sycamore Park District gets grant for natural area restoration work

SYCAMORE – The Sycamore Park District plans to use a $42,800 grant from the DeKalb County Community Foundation for natural area restoration work at Sycamore Community Park that is designed to deter erosion, protect the watershed area and save money.

The project focuses on the riparian area where Route 64 crosses the Kishwaukee River at the Sycamore Park District Golf Course entrance. It will continue south to the bridge that connects the golf course and sports complex and east along Route 64 to the northeastern corner of the golf course. The area is somewhere between 3 and 5 acres total, Sycamore Park District Executive Director Dan Gibble said.

It costs the park district about $6,000 a year to mow and maintain an acre of grass. Restored natural areas cost significantly less to maintain, help protect the Kishwaukee River and can also help beautify the entrance to Sycamore, Gibble said.

“Natural spaces are far less labor intensive to maintain,” he said. “We think it is going to look really nice as well.”

Work on the project could start this year, but the bulk of it will be done in the spring, Gibble said. Once completed, the area will include interpretive signs designed to educate visitors about the importance of restoration work. Sycamore Community Park attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year and the golf course draws more than 30,000 players a year. Furthermore, the project will be visible from the roadway.

Altogether, the district has identified seven sites, about 12 to 14 acres total, for natural restoration work, Gibble said. Those projects will be tackled as funding becomes available, he said.

The project follows goals outlined in the Union Ditch/Virgil Ditch & East Branch Kishwaukee River Watershed Planning Steering Committee’s Watershed Plan, said DeKalb County Community Foundation Program Director Anita Zurbrugg. DeKalb-based ecological consulting firm ENCAP Inc. will do the work, according to a news release from the park district.

In the past, little attention was given to development in DeKalb County’s watershed areas, in part because the county doesn’t rely on the Kishwaukee River for drinking water, Zurbrugg said. A variety of groups, including the foundation and the steering committee, have been working to change that.

“This is a great example of public-private partnership,” Zurbrugg said.

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