The 30-acre parcel was given to the District by the Illinois Toll Highway Authority to replace Forest Preserve land needed to build the Interstate 355 bridge through Keepataw Preserve in Lemont. The preserve, which does not have public access at this time, is located on the east side of the Des Plaines River across from Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve, which does have public access off of Division Street on the west side of the river.
“We cobbled together funding from various grants to begin the restoration,” Mason said.
Money came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Habitat Conservation Plan funds and a ComEd Green Region Grant.
No one was sure what to expect when restoration work began in 2011. In addition to the buckthorn, the preserve also was home to invasive honeysuckle, refuse and rock piles.
The project included the adjacent 176-acre Dellwood Park West, which is owned by the Lockport Township Park District. A portion of the park is managed by the Forest Preserve District through a 2009 intergovernmental agreement.
Forest Preserve staffers were cautiously optimistic about the resurgence of the site, but they were surprised by how quickly the land bounced back. Locations where mounds of buckthorn were piled before removal could have scarred the soil and led to an emergence of weeds. But that didn’t happen, said Nick Budde, the Forest Preserve’s restoration ecologist, who submitted the application to the Chicago Wilderness ecological restoration accreditation program.