Record number of Great Western Prairie volunteers highlight desire to connect with nature

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The Elmhurst Great Western Prairie is one of Elmhurst’s highlights. Located just north of the Prairie Path between Spring Road and Salt Creek, it is one of the few pre-settlement remnants of native prairie landscape remaining in northeastern Illinois. The unique landscape provides a respite for both native species and those who take advantage of the Prairie Path for exercise.

The prairie must be maintained and that’s where volunteers can lend a hand. If left alone, invasive plants would slowly overtake the area. Monthly work days are scheduled through the spring, summer and fall to continue preservation work.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, volunteer numbers at the prairie’s monthly events have increased this fall. September’s volunteer day was the best attended ever, with volunteers from Wheaton, Aurora, Buffalo Grove and beyond. Volunteers cleared enough brush during three hours to make up for the three lost work days from the spring, which were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Many people have taken on a new appreciation and awareness of their natural surroundings during the pandemic. Volunteering offers an outdoor activity that the whole family can do for free while supporting their community. 

Beyond assisting in efforts to preserve the area, volunteers also contribute to restoring prairies throughout Illinois by collecting seeds from the prairie, which are then shared and exchanged with other prairie projects throughout the state, including within Elmhurst. Seeds from the Great Western Prairie were used to build prairie areas in Eldridge Park.

The final work day for 2020 is November 21. No more than 50 people may participate and face coverings are required. Those interested in registering can click here.