April News

RIVERBANK NEIGHBORS I biked by the closed off loop path at Cullom.
I saw two hipsters below, 
one standing on the retaining wall,
one scrabbled up the bank digging up plants.
At first I thought  it was Holly, weeding.
Then realized, No, it was no one I knew. 
I asked the woman what she was doing.
“Foraging leeks!” she replied ingenuously.
“First of all, I said, this path is closed to repair the damaged bank that you are climbing on.
Second, these plantings are protected and were created by the community, and you do not have permission to take them, and
Third, you are harvesting day lilies, not leeks. Smell them. They aren’t onions. Don’t eat them.”

The other day we were looking across the river at the Horner natural Area paths and you could mistake it for a dog park. Although there are clear signs at the entries, including ad hoc, home made, beseeching signs, dogs abound. Many, if not most, not even on leash. These places really need park rangers who wander the paths, patrol them and explain why dogs are a problem with ground nesting birds and other wildlife. Natural areas are so few. They are a refuge for migrating species and reptiles and mammals trying re-establish themselves in the Urban Wild.  Off leash dogs, even “friendly” ones are a threat to children, who have been bitten, grabbed and freaked out by aggressive (playful) dogs.  Please, spread the word. Some people don’t know how tentative these urban natural areas are.

Another other day we watched across at Horner, as a fitness buff decided to streak up the bank, off path, then trudge back down. The streak back up, and repeat, over and over, almost by definition destroying the banks integrity by killing off, trampling, the plants that keep it stable. Pllllease!

Today, we worked on the Cullom Street path (entrance for ONE WAY traffic). We installed a small fence to protect the upper bank, and posted some beautiful new signs created by Elizabeth G.B. and family on Maplewood. See photo attached.  Previous beautiful signs created by Nicole, Salim and Deb of Hutchinson, have been blasted away by wind and rain. We need more signs like these for the other loop, and many signs that say:
  Stay On Path
Stay Off Bank
Don’t Pick flowers or poach plants
Yield to other walkers on the path   Stay on the paths, and keep your social 
distance.   Stay off the banks! Do not climb and destroy rare and sensitive plant communities.   On the upper paths, look before you go, and let oncoming traffic through before you continue.  While we worked, we could hear a dad, across the way, trying to be the best, funnest dad ever, for his, maybe, four year old son. They cut through the brush, making their own paths in the wilderness. At one point, I saw the dad trying furiously to remove a branch from a tree. Finally successful, he used it to stick inside some sort of hole he had found in the bank. Maybe he was fishing for termites. Maybe he was telling his child, “Some kind of animal lives in there, let’s see if we can flush it out!” 
Next good idea came a few minutes later when the dad and child sat on the rocks by the wetland area.
“Which one should we throw next. Oh! That one?”
I called across and asked him to please not throw those rocks in.
“Why?” he asked.
I explained that those rocks were placed there to hold in the bank and that if he threw in 10, and another hundred people threw in ten, there would be no bank left. “OK” he said.

These times have brought many new and inexperienced people into the field. We need to find ways to explain and remind them, if these places are to survive and thrive. 

————————————————– Riverbank Neighbors is a community-led organization. The ancient ecosystem was all but wiped out on our land, but now the river path offers a view of natural beauty very rare.. The riverbank in our urban neighborhood has been tranformed by our work, since 1994. Our community leaders are stewards of the ecosystem, with deep ties to the Environmental organizations in the Chicago area, especially the North Branch Restoration Project and Friends of the Chicago River. We gather seeds of precious, rare plants, spread them in nuturing areas, and keep the weeds away. Workdays include maintaining the paths as education and work centered aroud maintaining this example of our ancient native Chicago ecosystem. Many people have helped to create and maintain this 1/4 mile stretch of the Chicago Riverbank. The children of nearby, Waters Elementary, through the Mighty Acorn program with Ecology teacher, Pete Leki, have visited the riverbank here as part of their river studies for many many years. Countless volunteer groups have assisted in these efforts. Many many people have contributed to the beauty and we thank all of them. We seek kindred spirits, who like to garden, rebuild steps, or gather seeds and learn the nuances of the ecosystem. We invite artists, students, and community of all ages to find a place for themselves in our project. Check the calendar to join our riverdays and other events.
**check back when the shut down is over**
Till then, only our experienced crew will continue, as essential workers, maintaining the riverbank, keeping careful social distance.
Bird report from Sigrid:

Today was really fun. I birded the Horner Park side of the River this morning.  I have never seen this many swamp sparrows at one outing before. They were everywhere.  We have pretty much the same thing on our side.  I had 2 towhees and a brown thrasher at the same time.  S
Here’s the list: 

27 species

Canada Goose  16     6 goslings
Blue-winged Teal  2
Mallard  7
Mourning Dove  1
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  5     Female
Northern Flicker  3
Eastern Phoebe  1
Tree Swallow  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  5
European Starling  6
Brown Thrasher  1
Hermit Thrush  2
American Robin  14
House Sparrow  2
American Goldfinch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  3
White-throated Sparrow  16
Song Sparrow  5
Swamp Sparrow  15     They’re everywhere
Eastern Towhee  1
Red-winged Blackbird  9
Common Grackle  13
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Northern Cardinal  2


Riverbank Neighbors has declared a climate emergency.  As has our Green Council of the 47th Ward and now, today, the City Council of Chicago.  To those who this is a shock, they have some hard realizations ahead, all necessary.  To the rest of us, this is like rain (hope) in a time of drought (despair).  With this resoltion, we hope, much action will result.  As part of this resolution, there is more to communicate, more to listen, more work to do.  But also the day to day regular work of Riverbank Neighbors continues.

So, we invite you to spread the word and join us Managing Small Native Gardens with Controlled Permitted Burns  Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 6 PM – 8 PM
Dear Friends,
Waters School Gardens and Riverbank Neighbors will be holding a workshop:

“Managing Native Gardens in the City: learn how certified crews conduct controlled, permitted burns of small gardens in Chicago.”

Thursday, February 27, 2020
Sulzer Regional Library
6:00 – 8:00

Presentations, Video, and Roundtable
to share information about this invaluable restoration tool.

Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/785787161831211/

Please join.  We’ll start by reading the Climate Emergency Declaration and a call to action, as the Green Council does to start each meeting.

Hope to see you there.
Future Rbn workdays:
tba RBN