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NT_041218

The Northbrook Tower 041218

12 | April 12, 2018 |

12 | April 12, 2018 | The Northbrook tower News northbrooktower.com Winnetka group leads cleanup of NB forest preserve Nathan Worcester Freelance Reporter Unseasonably cold temperatures on Saturday, April 7, did not stop members of the Winnetka Youth Organization (WYO) and other North Shore organizations from removing invasive plants along the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook during its Forest Preserve Restoration Workday. More than two dozen people showed up for the trail cleanup, which was this week’s social service opportunity for WYO participants. Christina Gikas, executive director of the WYO, explained the weekly opportunities are intended to empower adolescents by showing them their own capacity to make their local community a better place. Gikas said this particular experience was so important to the youth involved in the WYO. “Forests have a lot of value to our lives — trees allow us to breathe and live,” she said. “We are responsible as humans to help restore and maintain their natural state. Volunteering for a couple of hours a week, or a few hours a month, could really make a difference.” The WYO program participants focused on the removal of common buckthorn, a tenacious, berry-laden shrub that is not native to the Midwest. Buckthorn chokes out wildflowers and other understory plant species, making them a big problem for the ecosystem in Illinois and nearby states. After receiving instructions and tools, the volunteers made their way to an area where buckthorn Teens from across the North Shore and surrounding suburbs gathered at River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook on Saturday, April 7, for the Winnetka Youth Organization’s Forest Preserve Restoration Workday, helping remove invasive plants. PHOTOS BY RHONDA HOLCOMB/22ND CENTURY MEDIA Dylan Gururajan (left), 13, and Jack Sokol, 14, from Boy Scout Troop 912 in Evanston, help with workday cleanup. plant numbers were especially high. Protected from the plants by gardening gloves, goggles and many layers of warm clothing, they cleared hundreds of the plants over the course of two hours. Once the teens and adult volunteers removed the plants using saws and other tools, they dropped them in a fire pit to burn them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was a lot of fun for the teenage volunteers. Afterwards, Gikas reflected on the lasting value of this experience for adolescents who had not previously considered the delicate balance of nature in their own backyards. “Our students have never thought about plants that may affect the ecosystem and how we can volunteer to help bring [the land] back to its natural state,” Gikas said. Although the WYO has participated in beach cleanups before, this marks the first occasion that they have cleaned up Forest Preserve land. “This experience was so great… We will definitely continue to volunteer at Winnetka Youth Organization members and Wilmette residents Maggie Cao (left), 15, and Sela Cornell, 15, clear buckthorn. Jerry Attere, a naturalist with River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook, talks to volunteers. Christina Gikas (left), executive director of the Winnetka Youth Organization, and Chloe Craig, 13, of Winnetka, clear buckthorn. forest preserves,” she said. The WYO’s April programming also includes its annual Spring Benefit, which will take place this coming Saturday, April 14, at Avli Estiatorio in Winnetka. At that event, there will be a silent auction of items from the Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs.

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