Hello dear riverbankers! Please join us tomorrow for weeding, seeding (collecting and sowing), planting and trail maintenance…. and friendship, fresh air, wildlife, and food afterwards. Hope to see you there. Riverbank team
We will gather tomorrow from 9:00 until 11:00 or so to pull weeds, gather seeds, prune, repair retaining walls and continue the FQA for the riverbank. It is exciting work at the time of the Autumnal Equinox. We will gather afterwards to share food and stories and songs and enjoy the cool weather and the hint of cooler weather to come.
Waters School garden received an award from the Chicago Excellence in Gardening Contest, and one of the gifts was a Witch Hazel shrub from Possibility Place. We will be planting it in our shady areas along with Great St. Johnswort, Showy Goldenrod and Whorled Milkweed.
Dear Neighbors. This Sunday, we’ll gather at the riverbank for the usual work, gathering seeds, weeding to protect the rare precious native plants, maintaining the path, but also we will be biking to volunteer as part of a fantastic local event, The Sustainability Market. (see below for more details)
I met the founder of this event, Sherry Skalko, through work with the Green Council. She explained to me that the actual amount of material recycled was actually only her secondary goal in this project. She explained, if I remember correctly.., that the primary goal was for people to spend enough time learning about how to recycle that they become more motivated to create less waste, and for the waste that is created to be more recyclable and recycled. That sounds really good to me.
It looks like they could use some more volunteers, so please consider this as a possible fun thing to do with friends on Sunday. We’ll be volunteering to support the North Center Sustainability Market before and after our riverbank workday, as part of our commitment to be role models for our children. Sherry asked people to use the signup genius form if they can, because it’s helpful, but she also said to not let it be a barrier, that volunteers are welcome and the form is optional. Still, it only took me a minute of patience to sign up and I’m glad I did. It can feel hopeless to try to solve the problems of the world, but many of us in Riverbank Neighbors, years ago, took a personal pledge to be part of the solution to the problems the world faces in the climate emergency and other ways humanity struggles for safe, clean water, air, soil, and safety. So, one day at a time, we seek to do our best. If this sounds good to you, perhaps you’d like to join us Sunday.
9-11 Riverbank at Berteau (east side)
before and after: volunteering at the Sustainability Fair (details below)
please try to bike or walk to these events, if possible, for the earth’s sake.
no judgement on people who can’t because their car is broken, their bike is broken, their foot hurts, or other reasons. we won’t judge. we drive sometimes too, though we put some effort into planning not to. Advocating for safer street infrastructure that protects people walking and biking from cars is an essential element to that. Thanks to our Alderman for his leadership on this issue.
Today many Riverbank Neighbors are at Waters Garden, working together to maintain the garden there. Please visit WaterEcology.org to learn about the changes there. Over a thousand people have signed the petition to bring back Pete as steward of the garden and to finish negotiations for his job status. All the money was raised for ecology, but it’s been reallocated to other things. Last week, Pete and another Waters alumni and parent, testified to the CPS board asking for their advocacy saving Waters Ecology Program, which is a national model for excellence in environmental education. Waters has been visited by educators from around the country and the world. Here’s the link to view their testimony: A 55 page page packet of supporting documents was submitted along with this testimony. Pete Leki speaks to the CPS Board of Education (2min) then Meg Ford (2 min) https://youtu.be/Iw0kI_YxOuA?t=9349 All are invited to advocate to offer their support in whatever way they can. Now is the time to protect environmental leaders and stewards of the land who some with to diminish or ban. Many are afraid of losing their jobs or retaliation against their children, but please find a way.
Today, we are sharing that our longtime community member and friend, Ann Breen-Greco, will soon be moving away. Ann has been a core member of Riverbank Neighbors and has spent her life being a role model as an activist for justice, peace, women’s rights, and so many good causes. She showed the way, she is a mother and grandmother and true friend to many. I am personally deeply grateful for Ann, as a community leader, a mentor, and as a friend. I look forward to her future visits and thank her for being so strong, intelligent, visionary, and wise. We will miss you Ann. You are loved. Please keep in touch and visit us.
Ann asked us to share that she is holding an estate sale this morning, Saturday, 9/3/22 from 9AM to 3pm at her home, 4123 N. Maplewood (1/2 block south of Berteau near the river)
Tomorrow, Sunday, Sept 4, 2022 There’s a Riverbank morning 9-11. We’ll host a flower walk and start our plant inventory for the project described below. After, we’ll share lunch.
Wednesday, Riverbank Neighbors will have “Seeds and Weeds” from 5:30 to 7:15. which is a different kind of riverbank event, shorter, on weekdays. Jules
msg from Pete below:(written for Waters community, but sharing with RBN)
Hello Dear Friends, Twenty+ people showed up at the garden on Wednesday night to work, play and enjoy food and music. We repaired a broken bench, pulled wheelbarrows of bindweed, pruned the Ninebark (native shrub), raked the grass around the fire circle, removed the grape netting and harvested the last of the grapes in Journeys and Refuge Garden, and more. We made a small fire and cooked quesadillas, and Jeff, a school dad, serenaded us on guitar, while bats swooped overhead. All school families, friends and neighbors are welcomed. Tomorrow, Saturday September 3, from 9:00 until noon, we will meet again at the garden to do more garden tasks, including the beginning of our Floristic Quality Assessment! This scientific tool will allow us to qualitatively and quantitatively score our native plant community restoration. We will end up with an index number so that we can compare our garden with other restoration sites, and with itself, over time. Tomorrow we will begin identifying every native plant in the garden, creating a list, looking up the plant’s scientific name and Coefficient of Conservatism (C number). This number ranges from 0 -10, 0 being plants that, tho native, are weedy and aggressive, to 10, plants that will not tolerate disturbance of their very particular habitat and community. The list is then analyzed mathematically to come up with a score. We know, from decades of study and work, that our garden is fabulously rich, ecologically speaking. Beginning with our ancient oaks, whose roots have held on to the mycorrhizal fungal associations necessary for a healthy native plant community, to the effects of 25 years of prescribed burns, our garden hosts at least 120 native species. It is an ecological, historical, educational, cultural and community treasure, nurtured by generations of school families and friends. So, join us and learn and enjoy these wonderful waning days of summer. And for those of you who can’t get enough, we will be working on the Riverbank on Sunday, 9-11:00. Mr. Leki
Dear River Bank Friends, The days have been mild. The rain, tho not enough, has been gentle. We still have lots to do, pruning and weeding, and fixing trails and walls. Please join us tomorrow for stewardship, 9-11:00. (Saturday Aug 27th) Look for us between Berteau and Hutchinson. Afterwards we can share some lunch if you are able. Hope to see you, Pete
Dear Riverbank Neighbors, Join us tomorrow morning for a stewardship workday: weeding, pruning and repairing. We can do a wildflower walk to test our flower ID skills, and Pete can bring you up-to-date on the Waters School Crisis. Please visit watersecology.org and sign the petition and leave a comment. We are hoping to reach 1,000 signatures by Tuesday’s LSC meeting. Meet at the River and Berteau Ave. 9:00 – 11:00 Many thanks, Pete
If you appreciate what Pete brings to the community, if you love the riverbank, love Waters Garden, appreciate the ecology program K-8 at Waters for decades, bringing generations of Waters students to the Riverbank, the forest, the lake, and the garden, if you appreciate the Environmental Justice activism we do, please lend a hand and send him a message of support that can be posted publicly, as well as signing the petition on the website. (we’re not asking donations right now)
Please check here WatersEcology.org to get updates, read other peoples letters of support, and read the other newspaper articles and newsletters by Pete.
back to Riverbank Neighbors…
We’ve scheduled three scheduled upcoming August Riverbank mornings.
Dear community, This is a true call for support, for solidarity with Riverbank Neighbors and Waters Garden, because the ability of the community to protect Waters Garden from destruction, the ability for Pete Leki to continue to take the next generation of students to the lake, the forest, the river, the garden, and to learn to be intelligent and strong forces for a healthy future for themselves on this planet, all of this work is under true threat, true peril.
Chicago Public Schools have destroyed parts of the garden time and again. The community has had to rise up over and over, to protect the garden, stealing our family and work time.
The Waters Ecology and Riverbank Neighbors community are intertwined and have shared common communities, common organizers, shared shovels and work ethics. We both are advocates for justice, environmental and social justice. We are activists, advocating for clean water (the river/lake), clean air (solidarity/hunger strike with General Iron protestors), clean land (in so many ways), and for protection and support for those of us in need, disempowered by the forces that be.
There isn’t time to fully explain the present peril. Envision the best of the riverbank and waters community and then envision our last steward gone, replaced by a low-paid part time contractor employed and controlled by CPS. If you want to take action, here are some ideas:
Pete Leki invites you to the garden this morning 10-12. Please email him if you can come early or on time and help set up. PeteLekisan@gmail.com
Write a letter of support. Or at least, quickly email that you are looking for ways to come together.
Make a note to read the news coming your way from Pete in coming days.
It’s exhausting to fight these battles. But, if we shy away, what is good will be left unprotected. I ask Riverbank Neighbors far and wide, and long out of touch, please write to Pete. Let him know you are there. This isn’t just about him and what he does, it’s about what he enables the community to do at the Riverbank and in the places where he is one of the last stewards standing.
Dear Neighbors, I’m putting Election day on our google calendar.
I’m inviting you all to do the same. Actually, as some of you know, we’ve got quite a few people in the neighborhood who’ve spent most of their lives volunteering for campaigns, so they would advise us to reflect on our commitment to having a good result in the next election .. how much does it matter? Would you like to join a group that is working together to make a difference? There are many good organizations to join, working for causes you believe in, of course.
People who work on campaigns and advocacy spend time in weeks and months before elections, making phone calls, going door to door, and working on elections. Maybe some of you would like to share your experiences. I’d like to find a way to share your stories. Please let me know. Jules
Dear neighbors, for 20+ years, the Riverbank Neighbors community has celebrated the Summer Solstice. It’s an event to celebrate the work, the beauty of nature, to share news of births and passings, and to welcome new community members. This year, we’re going to the beach and you’re invited.
If you would like to bike with us, please gather at Berteau at 6pm. There’s a group of us who do this often, even on hot days. It takes about 25 minutes at a gentle pace. We’ll follow the most calm bike route possible, kids on sidewalks with adult guides if the group is small. If the group is large and we have enough experienced bike leaders, it will be similar to a kidical mass ride. We ask all riders to only be positive and kind and wave or ring bells and say “thank you” to cars who kindly (or impatiently) wait for the bikes to pass. We will be biking all the way to the lake and back (with ~ 60-90 min of beach time in between) We’ll probably have kids with us, but please only bring kids with who have biked that distance before and bring plenty of water, extra to use to cool off. We have several 8 and 10 years olds who do it often, but it’s a hot day. We biked it yesterday with kids, not problem, so just bring water, and bring bike lights or reflective vests for the ride home.
Those who don’t want to bike are invited to join us at the beach at 7.. maybe by the bus or carpool. We’ll mark our spot on the beach with the big kite-like pinwheel that we often have had up at events in the past, so you can find us, unless the wind is too strong, in which case, we’ll stick near one of the lifeguard stations to the south side of Montrose Beach.
Suggested items to pack: beach blanket or towel, sunglasses for wind, drinks and/or nut-free food (there’s also “The Dock” restaurant at the beach or hot dog stands, of course), kites, toys for kids to build sand castles. ** bike lights and/or reflective items. If you don’t have them, it’s a good day to visit a local bike store.
Check back here for updates. Hope to see you there.
Fri, June 17 6-7 Seeds and Weeds along the riverbank with Jules. Join at Berteau. pleasant, light work, peaceful time to enjoy nature and be with community. weather dependent. check the calendar, email, or facebook page for updates.
Hold the date. Tues, June 21 Solstice. Different than the past. Activism for bike safety. Ceremony to recognize heroes in our midst. Ceremony to commemorate those lost to cars going too fast and toxic car culture. We’ll learn about ways to save lives, learn some songs, learn some native flowers in bloom. and we’ll see old and new friends. Please email if you’d like to help organize or do setup/tear down for our solstice gathering. Perhaps we’ll go one a RBN bike ride. Other ideas are being considered, weather dependent.
Please check for updates on our Riverbank Neighbor calendar.
This event is a part of a new initiative called “Ward Night Out” that brings neighborhood updates and ward services directly to neighbors. You will also have the opportunity to learn how you can get involved in environmental issues locally, and meet other neighborhoods who are committed to addressing the climate crisis.
Tomorrow, April 3, we scheduled a possible burn and workday at the River (at Berteau). The weather is “iffy” for a burn, but we will be ready if a window opens. There is plenty of other work to do, so please join us. If we do proceed with a burn, please keep children well away from the fire, so they won’t be in harms way and we won’t be worried and distracted. The workday is scheduled from 12-2. If you can help set up, please come early (11:30, 11:45.) It might be that the wind shift happens at 2:00, meaning that we might burn after the workday. Please stand by.
These a really spectacular little film clips. Please share them with your family and your block club list. The clips show the larger effort that our work is inspired by, the North Branch Restoration Project. more to come.. https://northbranchrestoration.org/
Many thanks to all who attended our workday last weekend.
We prepped the riverbank for the coming burn, shared news, met new neighbors, had a beautiful day in the sun, and sang songs.
We also said a collective prayer (secular/non-denominational expression of intention) to protect those who are maintaining chernobyl, holding them in our hearts, hoping they could be protected and allowed to switch shifts and kept safe. We know almost everyone is very worried, but lets look to the good people, the heros, the helpers, the healers.. and the those working to keep us safe .. to keep our spirits up.
Sunday, March 20, 2022 11-12 Riverbank workday, 12-1 gather for fire, community, and small ceremony of hope, details below.
Tomorrow, Sunday, March 20th, Riverbank Neighbors invites you to our first riverbank event of 2022, from 11:00 until 1:00 to observe the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring and the official end of Winter. Soon, the spring flowers will come!
At 11, we’ll meet at the east side of the river and Berteau, and from 11 to noon, we’ll have a short workday and do some path maintenance and prep for a planned prescribed burn of the riverbank at the end of the month.
After the workday, at noon, we will gather around a fire and share news and have a small ceremony of hope.
In the past, many members of Riverbank Neighbors have been activists for environmental, social justice, and peace. Many are still doing that work or looking for ways to do so. And so, Sunday, after our workday, at noon, we will have a small campfire to gather and share news and gather for a ceremony, to light candles of hope for protection of all humanity from the violence of war and, for peace, for protection for the precious staff at Chernobyl in their most important duty, for the protection of all refugees, from everyplace in the world where people struggle to protect their children and loved ones in need.
We will light candles in hope of healing and peace in the world and in our own community, Riverbank Neighbors. If anyone would like to join us in song, we will sing together, one healing song, of hope for the children, for a harmonious future where everyone is welcome, where everyone has value, where forgiveness is possible and where there are no enemies. We hope you will join us.
Thank you to all who attended our Controlled Burn Support Crew Training. It was very exciting be joined by so many from the Montrose Metra Garden! We’ll share that video in another email soon.
We have been conducting prescribed burns of our native gardens on The riverbank for the past 20 years. They are awesome events, and a humbling experience to witness the intense power of fire on landscapes. Prairies, savannas, and oak woods are fire evolved ecosystems. Without fire, they would evolve into different ecosystems (in historic times, they would evolve into mixed forests including fire intolerant trees. In modern times they would devolve into weird mixes of invasive species and aggressive natives). We will be conducting controlled burns at Waters and at the Riverbank this spring. If you would like to learn more about the science, procedures, and safety techniques that are employed during a burn, you are invited to a Burn Workshop (via Zoom) on Wednesday, February 23 at 6:00. Attendance at this workshop is required if you would like to join our burn crew on the day of the actual burn. We are lucky to have a number of certified burn crew members and a wealth of experience in our community who will be joining the presentation. We have permits in hand from the Illinois EPA. We are ready to go. Join us! Here is the invitation: https://www.evite.com/event/020FDWYRCWGYXAK26EPMROKFW5SW3A/activity?utm_campaign=send_sharable_link&utm_source=evitelink&utm_medium=sharable_invite
Our Annual Burn Training will be virtual this year. Wednesday, Feb 23rd, 6pm. Please attend if you’d like to help be the support crew for the controlled burn of the native gardens at the Riverbank at Berteau and/or Waters Garden.
Many in our community have decades of experience and/or certification or professional experience in controlled burns. This training is aimed specifically at preparing our community to burn our sites, but may be of interest to anyone who manages native gardens or who wants to learn more. We invite you to join us. We’ll share some instructions along with video clips to show what to expect and how to participate safely in this exciting part of native garden management.
This meeting is hosted by Pete Leki, (Ecology teacher at Waters), Sarah Anderson (Env Ed Program director at the Nature Museum), and Jules Peterson-Green (Riverbank Neighbors and the Green Council of the 47th Ward). We hope that many other neighbors with experience will also join to share their expertise. If you have been burning with us for years, we’ll give you the opportunity to share some advice or stories. Newcomers will enjoy hearing from you and we hope you’ll join us.
Riverbank Neighbors and Waters Garden communities have been stewarding and burning their community native gardens for over 20 years.
The Controlled Burn Support Crew Training will take place online on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, on Zoom. Please sign up here and we will send you a link in email. Please look for that email.
The land sleeps under a blanket of snow. Native seeds that we, and the other plants, have scattered are undergoing the alchemy of stratification, the setting of the switch for future growth brought on by sub-freezing temperatures. The snow on trees and dried stems is a spectacular treat in these isolated times. Before we know it, the snows will be gone, the remains of last years’ plants will dry, and we will, once again, prepare to conduct controlled burns on the river bank. We have now done this for more than 20 years! Burning is essential to the maintenance of native plant ecosystems: removing invasive species, darkening the ground, and dusting the soil with minerals bound up in the stems and duff. We will be having an on-line training for new and return volunteers who would like to participate. I myself find it very valuable to review the procedure and be reminded of the seriousness and heavy responsibility we accept when we do this burn. A number of veteran burn leaders will present, and we invite experienced neighbors to join us to add their experiences to this workshop.
Dear Riverbank Neighbors! This is it for schedule stewardship days for the year! 11:00 until 1:00, Sunday, November 21, 2021.
Maybe we will have a few special activities: a fire to celebrate the Winter Solstice, a gathering to consider next year’s work, prescribed burn training, the lovely strains of a musician’s instrument sounding out over the waters, and other reasons to get together to celebrate our community and work.
For tomorrow we will gather at Berteau Ave until 11:15, then walk around to the Horner Park side to gather grass and legume seeds to spread on the east bank. Easy, relaxing, beautiful work. See you there. RBN
Fall is truly falling, with bluster and a chill, a sprinkle of rain, and dust of snow.
Many things are wrapping up, including the garden and the riverbank.
Several families came out to the riverbank stewardship day on Saturday, and I am still hoping that we can get the 8th graders out to do stewardship in the Garden and to eat roasted potatoes and drink spiced apple cider. If we can set a day this week, I hope we can get some help supervising and cooking and all. I am meeting with the first-grade teachers to start up weekly tree lessons. I am meeting with the 4th-grade classes to review the plants that live in each ecosystem at Sauganash.
On Wednesday, November 17, Report Card pick-up day, parents will be able to have a look at their child’s ecology journal, from 3-7th grade, while waiting for your teacher conference. During the week I will start responding to student journals. If anyone would like to help learn “journal response”, to read and write back to our students, please let me know. I have 240 Mighty Acorns journals to read. Coffee?? Cookies??
I am looking for a used Weber (or other) grill to use with classes coming out to the garden during this chilly season. I am also asking for everyone to keep an eye out for straw bales that we can retrieve to use as mulch next year.
Dear Riverbank Friends, Please join us this Saturday, November 13, from 10:00 – 1:00 at the Berteau Ave wood chip mountain. Our aim is to add “dressing” layers to as much of the path as possible to try to get us through the winter without muddy paths. This is relatively easy, low stress, work, and kids are encouraged to join their parents in the task. Thanks to those neighbors who have been plugging away at the pile for the past 2 weeks. We may also be doing some seed collecting from the other side of the river, mostly grass and legume seeds to spread on our side. And, as always weeding and general clean up. Join us on this chilly Fall Saturday. Dress warn. Bring a thermos of hot beverage, your favorite gloves, and work boots. We will provide the rest.
Dear Riverbank Neighbors, What a fine, fierce time! The edge of the season sharpens our senses and ‘tunes our tongues”. We have a Riverbank stewardship day coming up, Saturday, November 13, 2021, 10:00 until noon. In the meantime, our friend Jovi dropped off a pile of wood chips at the end of Berteau Street. I didn’t want to reject this offer. I thought it would be great to “dress” the paths before winter with an additional 2-3 inches of fresh chips would help make the paths more welcoming. So, I will leave a wheelbarrow and shovel near the pile so that anyone wanting a bit of exercise can shovel, haul and spread a few loads.
I also want to welcome back Brendon, former intern and Riverbank leader who has moved back to the neighborhood with his partner AnaLucia and their young child Tamia. Brendon has been putting in extra hours pruning and trimming and will be helping lead work days through the Fall. I wanted to share with you a little story of the season that I wrote. I’ve already shared it with the Waters School ecology volunteer list, but wanted to also provide it to our riverbank families, as an alternative to the often horrific bloody mayhem that is offered up in the broader culture during this mysterious, poignant time.
A reminder invitation to join us by the river tomorrow at noon to do some essential maintenance work on a glorious Fall Day. Meet at Berteau street and the river. Bring your favorite gloves and hand pruners, or, if not, we will provide. Hope to see you there, Pete
Dear RBN Friends, The Fall Equinox is here, marking another milestone in our celestial cycle. Equal parts night and day. The Sun rising directly east and setting directly west. The Lakefront is the best place to welcome the Sunrise, and Horner Park hill not a bad place to watch it set. Today it will be cloudy and windy, but above the clouds the movement of the Sun goes on. However you mark this day, know that you are linked to billions on earth who recognize it as a unifying moment.
I want to propose the following days for Stewardship along the River. Saturday Oct 2, 10-1:00 Sunday, Oct 17, 12:00 – 2:00 Saturday, November 13, 10 – 1:00 Meet down at Berteau Street and the river!
Be well, Pete
Below are previous messagesRiverbank Workday this morning, Sat, Aug 21st 8-10 at Berteau, the east side of the river.
Tomorrow, Saturday, May 8th is the big city-wide River Day, organized by Friends of the Chicago River, which was founded in 1979 when the river was desperately more polluted and had almost no fish in it anymore. ‘Friends’ is responsible for organizing Chicagoans to fight for the improvements that have brought our river back to life.
If you aren’t a member yet, If you love the river, then you’ll want to become a member of Friends. They send a great newsletter all about the river that shows how much great work is going on to improve the quality of the river. Our local group, Riverbank Neighbors has been partnering with and supported by Friends of the Chicago River for decades.
On River Day, we usually have 20-30 new people show up at Berteau around 9am. We need to show them what work needs to be done. For this, we need some of our experienced neighbors who already know the work to help lead the event. Although Riverbank Neighbors hosts many many workdays throughout the year, River Day is a special day for us because on that day, we often recruit new wonderful members who find us through the Friends of the Chicago River website. We also love being one of many many sites for the big city-wide event! This year, as in most previous years, our site is full.
If you come to Riverbank Neighbor workdays often and know the tasks fairly well (digging up natives that have spread to the path, weeding, or wood chipping) and if you are willing to show newcomers how to do it, please join us tomorrow (even if you didn’t sign up yet) between 9 and 12 in the morning. (please reply to this email to let us know you can come. Thank you!)
We’ll be joined for a show of support by our Alder* Matt Martin and State Senator Sara Feigenholtz.
In non-covid years, all participants were invited to gather for one big celebration after the event with music, visiting nature educators, and fun games for kids. next year, we hope to celebrate together again. We hope everyone will get vaccinated to help such celebrations possible. For now, please bring your masks and respect people’s personal space for covid reasons. Thank you so much, we look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Upcoming dates are on our website at the link here.