Freeing the Oaks – Restoring a Rare Ecosystem at Gateway Park

The oak savanna at Galena Gateway Park.

JDCF is thrilled to receive two grants that will be used to restore 14 acres of native oak savanna at Gateway Park in Galena, Illinois. Volunteers with the Galena Area Land Enthusiasts (GALE) and the Northwest Illinois Prairie Enthusiasts (NIPE) have been working hard since 2015 to restore this overgrown area of the park to a beautiful wildlife habitat area for the public to enjoy.

Oak savannas are a mix of oak forest and open prairie habitats. Oak savannas are characterized by scattered hardwood trees like oaks and hickories that allow enough sunlight to reach ground to sustain native prairie species like bluestem, purple coneflower, and sunflowers. Fire is required to keep the understory free of brushy vegetation and other invasive species. The thick, cork-like bark of the bur oak trees insulates even young trees from the flames and allows these trees to fully mature and spread their branches out over the savanna.

Oak savannas were once common throughout the Midwest but have declined tremendously from decades of human activity and lack of proper management, including a lack of prescribed fire. Today, oak savannas are one of the rarest ecosystems on the entire planet.

The restoration of the oak savanna at Gateway Park includes the removal of 14 acres of brushy species from the understory and the removal of some of the larger trees that don’t belong in an oak savanna. Following the vegetation removal, the area will be burned and seeded with native prairie species hand-collected by the Northwest Illinois Prairie Enthusiasts.

Funding for this incredible habitat restoration project was provided by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation’s Community Stewardship Challenge grant program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, and an in-kind donation from the Northwest Illinois Prairie Enthusiasts. The acquisition, preservation, and management of Gateway Park is an ongoing partnership between JDCF and the City of Galena.

Upcoming Events

JDCF Annual Meeting

April 7 @ 4:30 pm - 8:30 pm

The public is invited to JDCF’s annual meeting on Saturday, April 7th, 2018 beginning with a social hour at 4:30 PM.  Our keynote speaker will be Jon Greendeer, Former President and current Executive Director of Heritage Preservation of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  Jon is a proud member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a student of the Ho-Chunk […] Read More

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Fantastic Frogs & Friends Frog Walk

April 27 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Bring the whole family to Fantastic Frogs & Friends, a frog walk beginning on the east side of the Meeker Street footbridge along the Galena River Trail in downtown Galena, IL. Learn all about frogs and toads, join us in a toast to spring, and then take part in a guided hike down the trail […] Read More

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Bluebird & Red-headed Woodpecker Workshop

April 28 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Details to come.

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JDCF’s Portage Site: A Center of Native American History

May 12 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Join archaeologist Phil Millhouse and Chloris Lowe, former President of the Ho-Chunk Nation, for a guided tour of JDCF’s Portage Preserve including the Hopewell burial mounds.  Portage is not open to the public and so this is a rare opportunity to learn about the site from our expert tour leaders.  RSVP’s to are required […] Read More

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