The Village of Lake Zurich is graced with a unique set of natural circumstances. Its spring fed lake and hilly topography were formed by Ice Age glaciers over 10,000 years ago. Its oak savannas and wetlands are witnesses to thousands of years of history. The village owns several natural areas from the rare oak woodlands, Oak Ridge Marsh Nature Park and Kuechmann Park, to the high-quality wetland at Old Mill Grove Park.
But the diversity of these parks is being lost. Invasive weeds such as buckthorn and honeysuckle, along with a lack of prescribed burns are taking their toll. Invasives are overrunning these natural areas, eliminating native wildflowers and trees by preventing their reproduction. Residents no longer enjoy these areas of passive recreation. Encroachment of invasives onto private property decreases property values and causes removal expenses for homeowners.
The Oak Ridge Marsh Conservation Group was formed in 2007 as a response to these threats to these natural areas. Their work at the Oak Ridge Marsh Nature Park, 500 Lions Drive, has changed a dying oak woodland into an area that is full of wildlife, birds, native grasses and flowers. Best of all, people are now walking and biking its trails, bird watching, and just getting away from it all. It is truly a gem in the Villages’ park system.
In an effort to expand their work, the ORMCG has been renamed Ancient Oaks Foundation. We seek to work cooperatively with the Village to restore other Village owned natural areas such as Kuechmann Park, Old Mill Grove Park Wetland, and the Bird Observatory into healthy habitats for wildlife and great places of passive recreation for people.
Why has the Village not taken a firmer hand in the care of its degrading natural areas? They certainly had the good sense and forsight to set these woodlands and natural areas aside. But village residents demand adequate infrastructure and services, and these services take priority in the Village budget. The financial stresses of the recent recession have caused our village to decrease the amount of funding for the care of Village owned natural areas in order to maintain the other day-to-day services that residents expect. The temptation for the Village to sell these assets to decrease costs and raise revenues is shortsighted. Eliminating ecologically important properties for short-term gain will result in lower property values, dirtier air and water, and decreased quality of life for Lake Zurich’s residents.
We understand the importance and urgency of caring for these ecologically sensitive areas. We seek to work in partnership with the Village through the areas education, volunteerism, supportive funding and long-term planning. These natural areas, especially the increasingly rare oak woodlands, deserve and require our attention because if they are not cared for, they will die off and be gone forever. Without preservation, these natural treasures, like the increasingly rare oak woodlands will be lost forever.