Naperville Park District manages more than 2,400 acres of park land, which includes both natural areas and landscaped areas. As part of its commitment to caring for the environment, the Park District works to restore the health and diversity of natural areas, including woodlands, park meadows, shorelines, ponds and streams, and prairies. Landscaped areas in parks, such as perennial plantings at playgrounds and trees along fences, may need restoration as well. Restoration work involves removing invasive trees and plants to allow a variety of native trees and plants to grow and flourish. Restoration also may include planting native or desirable trees and plants, grading, and other work depending on the location.
Current or Upcoming Restoration Projects
Central Parks Division
Hobson West Ponds, 1047 S. West Street- The first phase of woody invasive removal took place in summer of 2022, and phase two is scheduled for winter. Staff will clear remaining buckthorn, white mulberry, honeysuckle, white poplar, and pear trees throughout the natural area, with a focus around the north pond.
May Watts Park, 804 S. Whispering Hills Drive - Woody invasive plants, including black alder and pear trees, are being removed along the pond shoreline to better stabilize the area around the pond, minimize erosion, and enhance water quality. Invasive plants also will be removed from the hill near Whispering Hills Drive to create a healthy prairie ecosystem.
South Parks Division
DuPage River Park, 808 Royce Road - This project will begin with removal of invasive shrubs and trees along the river shoreline and near a natural area known as a fen. Both areas will be restored with a seed mixture of native plants to protect the shoreline from erosion and promote a healthy, diverse ecosystem in both locations.
Knoch Knolls Park, 320 Knoch Knolls Road - Invasive woody plants and less desirable species are being removed to provide space for new and existing desirable species.
Commissioners Park, 3704 111th Street - Invasive woody plants and less desirable species are being removed to provide space for new and existing desirable species in two areas.
North Parks Division
(No North Parks projects this season; future projects to be listed at a later time.)
Completed Restoration Projects
Knoch Knolls Park, 320 Knoch Knolls Road - Woody plants, including box elder trees and invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle, were removed along the river shoreline to better stabilize the banks, minimize erosion, and enhance water quality in the river. The area will be planted in spring 2023 with a seed mixture of native plants to protect the shoreline from erosion and promote a healthy, diverse ecosystem.
Summerfield Lake Park, 2003 Skylane Drive - Invasive shrubs and trees, including sandbar willows and pear trees, were removed along the pond shoreline to better stabilize the banks, minimize erosion, and enhance water quality in the pond. The area will be planted in spring 2023 with a seed mixture of native plants to protect the shoreline from erosion and promote a healthy, diverse ecosystem.
Learn More about Restoration Projects
In addition to the beautiful trees planted as part of the landscape in neighborhood and community parks, Naperville Park District oversees many woodland areas, some spanning more than 200 acres and others nestled in a corner of a smaller park. Park visitors can walk, run or bicycle through some of the larger woodlands at Knoch Knolls Park, DuPage River Park, Seager Park and others. One of the most visited forests is Sindt Woods, located on the west end of the Naperville Riverwalk.
DuPage River Trail winding through the woodland at Knoch Knolls Park What are the benefits of healthy, diverse woodlands?
Woodlands provide habitat for birds, animals and insects, help absorb stormwater, add oxygen and water to the air, increase soil fertility and provide numerous other benefits to the environment and to the community.
One of the features of a healthy woodland is the presence of diverse tree species. The greater the variety of species, the more resistant the forest will be to destructive diseases. Additionally, a highly diverse forest supports a much wider variety of other plants and wildlife, strengthening the entire ecosystem.
Challenges to healthy woodlands
- Invasive tree and plant species. Some plants and trees in woodlands are identified as invasive because they quickly spread throughout a habitat, crowding out many diverse, beneficial trees and plants. Most invasive species also are not native to Illinois and are not controlled naturally by other plants or environmental factors. Examples of invasive trees in woodlands include Bradford pear and Norway maple. Invasive shrubs, such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, burning bush and barberry, can dominate the understory of a woodland, forming a dense thicket that blocks sunlight from reaching the forest floor and prevents woodland flowering plants from growing.
- Changes in temperature and precipitation. Unusually hot weather, drought and other changes in seasonal weather can impact the growth and survival of trees.
- Diseases and pests. Trees in northern Illinois are subject to a variety of common tree diseases and damage from pests. Examples of common diseases include Dutch elm disease and Oak wilt. Common pests include bag worms, emerald ash borer and tent caterpillars.
Caring for our woodlands
Prior to the arrival of settlers from the eastern United States in the 1800s, Illinois forests were comprised of a variety of native trees, shrubs and plants and were maintained naturally by a balanced ecosystem. Today it is possible to restore our woodlands to become healthier, more diverse habitats for wildlife through stewardship practices that include removing invasives, planting a variety of beneficial trees and shrubs, and continuing to monitor and maintain those areas.
What is the Park District doing?
Capital projects. These larger projects may involve an outside contractor in an area that needs substantial restoration work. For example, an oak woodland at Pioneer Park, 1212 S. Washington Street, was restored by clearing invasive trees, shrubs and weeds and planting a variety of native trees and plants appropriate for an oak/walnut woodland.
View of Pioneer Park woodland before the restoration, 2008
Restored woodland at Pioneer Park, 2020
The restoration project in 2008-2009 cleared invasive shrubs and trees that had shaded the forest floor and crowded out native wildflowers and tree saplings. Through ongoing maintenance, the Park District has restored the woodland to a healthy ecosystem that supports diverse native plants and wildlife.
This interpretive sign at Knoch Knolls Park explains the ongoing woodland restoration process led by our park maintenance staff.
- Controlled burns are planned seasonally for some woodland habitats to control invasive plants and shrubs. Trained crews supervise the process and obtain permits from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Naperville Fire Department. The burns do not harm trees and native plants, which have deep roots and can grow stronger after the burn.
- Invasive tree removal. Park staff is able to remove some invasive trees as needed in woodland areas.
- Hand removal of invasive shrubs and plants. Park staff and trained volunteers use hand tools to remove invasive shrubs and plants such as buckthorn and honeysuckle.
- Chemical applications. Limited application of herbicides is necessary to control aggressive plants such as teasel. Additionally, park staff uses pesticides when needed to combat tree pests, such as tent caterpillars. All use of pesticides is guided by principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which calls for careful evaluation of the need for treatment, correct identification of pests, minimal use of pesticides in combination with other management tools, prevention strategies and assessing the effect of pest management.
- Planting. Park District staff and volunteers plant some trees and shrubs in or on the edge of woodlands, however, simply removing invasives can result in the spontaneous growth of native seeds that were dormant in the woodland soil.
Invasive honeysuckle that was removed by volunteers and staff at Sindt Woods
View of a sunny area at Sindt Woods where honeysuckle had been cleared and is now allowing native plants to grow
How can you help?
- Volunteer with the Park District. Do you enjoy working outdoors and learning more about trees and plants? The Park District appreciates the help of volunteers in planting trees, removing invasives, spreading mulch and much more. Visit our volunteer webpage or contact Volunteer Manager Becca Krzyszkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 630-848-3606.
- Wildlife reminders. As you walk along woodland trails, remember to give wild animals space, as you are entering their home. This page provides more tips and information about wildlife.
- Plant native trees and shrubs at home. Did you know that some ornamental trees, such as Bradford pear, are invasive and can spread into woodlands? When choosing shrubs and trees for your home landscape, consult a list of native species and plant those instead.
For more background information about woodlands, check out these references:
Plant and tree care advice and information from The Morton Arboretum.
Restoring habitats at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
Land Management at the Forest Preserve District of Will County
Illinois Wildlife Action Plan: Forest and Woodland Campaign - Illinois Department of Natural Resources
History and Overview of Illinois Woodlands - Illinois Department of Natural Resources
As part of natural resource management, the Naperville Park District began a Park Meadow Initiative to improve its stewardship of parkland several years ago. This initiative involves converting turf grass to meadow in strategic areas in selected parks. The Park District planted the meadow areas with native wildflowers and low prairie grasses. The areas selected for conversion include stormwater detention sites and other areas that are frequently wet due to the topography of the site. The areas range in size from .10 acre to 1.25 acre. The Park District intends to extend the project into future years including 2022, converting additional acres into meadow each year in other parks across the District.
If you have questions about these projects, please contact Peggy Motta, Project Manager, at email@example.com or at 630-848-5013.
Century Farms Park, 715 Sigmund Road
Olesen Estates, 1415 Dunrobin Road
Wil-O-Way Park, 1408 W. Jefferson Avenue
Bailey Hobson Woods Park, 1184 Hobson Mill Drive
Buttonwood Park, 803 Buttonwood Circle
Willowgate Square, 408 Travelaire Avenue
Ashbury Greenway, 3475 Naperville Road
Brook Crossings, 1015 95th Street
Knoch Knolls Park, 320 Knoch Knolls Road
In August 2019 the Naperville Park District held its annual Capital Projects Open House, where residents learned about the improvements planned for 2020 and provided feedback.
Due to unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19, the Park District shifted four of the six 2020 projects to the 2021 and 2022 budget years. See below for further detail.
Park Meadow Restoration projects at Stanford Meadows and Wil-O-Way Commons were completed in 2020. The work in these two parks was a collaboration with the City of Naperville. Their staff removed sediment in the stormwater detention basins. Next, the Park District seeded the disturbed areas. If you have any questions regarding the sediment removal work, please do not hesitate to contact the City of Naperville at (630) 420-6111.
Wil-O-Way Commons, 1071 W. Jefferson Avenue
Stanford Meadows, 1991 Stanford Drive
Redfield Commons, 1324 Redfield Road.
Arrowhead Park, 711 Iroquois Avenue.
Springbrook Parkway, 2359 Nottingham Lane.
Brighton Ridge Park, 775 Torrington Drive.
General Project Timeline for Each Location
Year 1 - Removal of turf and invasive plants, shrubs and trees in planting area; preparation of soil; seeding with native Illinois low prairie mix; planting of cover crop while prairie grows.
Years 2-5 - Monitoring and maintenance of meadow areas to ensure healthy growth.
Year 3 - By the end of the growing season, the native prairie plants are expected to be established, covering at least 60% of the entire area.
Before and After Photos
As an example, the Park District converted turf to meadow in a drainage swale at Century Farm Park. (Please note: the 2019 project at Century Farms Park expanded the meadow that was created earlier.)
"Before" view of turf in swale
"After" view of meadow in swale
Park Meadow Project Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why are these sites being selected for conversion from turf to meadow?
A: These sites are being selected because they meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Areas within parks that are difficult to maintain due to the seasonal presence of stormwater. These are areas that stay wet long enough to hinder maintenance and/or the growth of turf grass. Examples are detention basins, swales and ditches.
- Locations where native plants would offer an ecological benefit of absorbing and filtering stormwater before it enters the citywide storm sewer system. These include areas adjacent to waterways and ponds, detention basins, and areas around inlets and swales that are tied into the sewer system.
- Areas with environmental conditions that make them unable to grow turf grass.
Q: Why not just leave the turf as it is?
A: Converting turf to meadow brings environmental benefits for local rivers and streams, wildlife and soil. Native plants are better adapted to the local climate and have deeper, more extensive root systems than turf grass. Because of their extensive roots, native species absorb and filter stormwater, removing pollutants before the water enters the rivers and streams. These visually attractive plant communities also offer a variety of species that provide food and habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Additionally, long-term maintenance of a meadow with native plants will save both labor and material costs, requiring only occasional mowing and controlled burning, less watering and no fertilizing. Environmental benefits of less frequent mowing include energy savings and reduced pollution from gasoline.
Q: What will the project sites look like during the next three years?
A: The project will begin with clearing of existing turf and invasive plants in the area.Once seedlings sprout, low plants and grasses will lightly cover the area during the first growing season. The native plants gradually will fill in during the second and third years, with blooming flowers and a variety of grasses. See the "after" photo for an example.
Q: Will residents still be able to use the park for recreation?
A: The areas of the park that remain landscaped with turf can continue to be used for a variety of active and passive recreation. Park meadow areas can be used for passive recreation, for example, children enjoy exploring natural areas and can watch insects and butterflies pollinate the flowers and learn how the plants change through the seasons. Children who do not participate in sports and those with special needs may especially appreciate interacting with nature in the park.
Q: How is this project related to the Park District's core values, mission, goals and plans?
A: This project promotes natural resource management, which is part of environmental stewardship, one of the Park District's Core Values. The project also addresses one of the goals of the District's 2018-2020 Strategic Plan, to develop a long-term land management plan that is aligned with changing design and maintenance practices. Ã Additionally, the District's Master Plan mentions converting turf to natural prairie on page 23 under Environmental Stewardship. Considering that natural areas with native plants help protect a healthy environment, this project advances the District's mission to promote a healthy community.
For questions about any of the projects, contact Peggy Motta at 630-848-5013 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Here is some additional information regarding the benefits of native plants:
Environmental Protection Agency - The importance of native plants
DuPage County Stormwater Ordinance
Illinois Native Plant Guide - Native Plant Applications for Streams and Stormwater Facilities
Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Overview of the benefits and importance of native plants
Park Meadow in progress at Willowgate Square, early Fall 2019
In addition to woodlands and wetlands, Naperville Park District's natural areas include grasslands with few trees and varying types of vegetation. Some of these grasslands are in the process of being restored to a prairie ecosystem, with a variety of deep-rooted, native prairie grasses and plants. There are ongoing prairie restoration projects off the beaten path in parks with large natural areas, such as DuPage River Park, and also in more visible areas, for example, in front of Knoch Knolls Nature Center, so that park visitors can get a closer view of prairie plants and learn about why they are important.
Prairie restoration at Pioneer Park
One highly visible prairie restoration is at Pioneer Park, 1212 S. Washington Street, adjacent to the parking lot and shelter.
Another prairie restoration is located in front of Knoch Knolls Nature Center, 320 Knoch Knolls Road. The interpretive sign overlooking the prairie explains the history of the Illinois prairie and how deep-rooted plants create rich soil.
Knoch Knolls Nature Center prairie restoration
Interpretive sign at Knoch Knolls prairie restoration
Maintaining a Healthy Prairie
Mowing in the first few years after planting a prairie can help prevent invasives from seeding.
Controlled burns are planned seasonally for established prairies to control invasive plants and add nutrients to the soil. Trained crews supervise the process and obtain permits from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Naperville Fire Department. The burns do not harm native plants, which have deep roots and can grow stronger after the burn.
Chemical applications. Limited application of herbicides may be necessary to control invasive plants such as teasel during prairie establishment. All use of herbicides is guided by principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which calls for careful evaluation of the need for treatment, correct identification of pests, minimal use of pesticides in combination with other management tools, prevention strategies and assessing the effect of pest management.
Self-sustaining. Once established, prairies are mostly self-sustaining, not requiring irrigation or chemical fertilizers.
Learn more about prairies:
A Field Guide from the Illinois State Museum links to common Illinois prairie plants by season
Establishing a Prairie
Naperville Park District manages over 2,400 acres of parkland which includes neighborhood parks, community parks and sports complexes. These parks were designed to provide everyone with the chance to enjoy recreational activities along with the beauty of nature. Landscaping includes trees, plants and turf used in the design and creation of these recreational spaces.
The landscaping within these parks serves several functions including:
- General beautification of the space
- Provides separation or borders between areas within the park, such as a barrier around a basketball court or between a playground and sports field
- Provides shade for picnic tables or a cool place to rest
Example of landscaping around the playground at Pembroke Park
Certain conditions can occur that require restoration of landscaping, including:
- Trees or plants can decline due to age.
- Environmental factors such as insects, diseases or storms can damage or destroy trees or plants.
- Trees or plants can outgrow the space they are in.
- New best practices within the industry can require changes in landscaping. For example, the Bradford pear tree was widely planted in past decades, but is now considered invasive.
- Changing ground conditions, such as a wet area within a park, can call for different types of trees or plants that are more suited to that area.
- Invasive trees or plants can spread to a park and interfere with a healthy landscape.
Landscape restoration in a park
Landscape restoration in a park usually begins with removing trees or other vegetation due to the factors listed above. Non-invasive, desirable trees are usually replaced but may be planted in a different location within the park. Park staff evaluates the park environment when planning a restoration project and when planting new trees or plants, staff selects those that are most suited for that space.