Native Prairie Landscaping

The District began its native prairie landscaping (NPL) project in 2003 with the conversion of several acres of conventional turf grass to native prairie plants. At the Lemont Water Reclamation Plant (WRP), a total of 3.5 acres were converted in three plots. At the North Side WRP, a total of 4.2 acres were converted in two plots. The purpose of NPL conversion is to show good land stewardship, to reduce the long-term cost of grounds maintenance, to be an example of a best management practice to infiltrate stormwater, to increase biodiversity and wildlife habitat and to sequester carbon. Signs are installed at each site to explain the purpose of NPL.

Our primary goal is to have an NPL installation at each WRP and at other facilities as space allows. The secondary goal is to have NPL installations on other District properties to be good stewards of our land. The primary goal includes facilities where District staff are located and that are exposed to the public. In this way, NPL can be explained to both District employees and to the public. Late in 2006, the installation of 23.9 acres of NPL began at the Calumet WRP (15.6 acres) and at the Stickney WRP (8.3 acres), bringing the total area of NPL at District facilities to 31.6 acres.

A successful installation of NPL involves multiple steps over several years and must be performed carefully. Briefly described, this consists of the following. First, the existing turf and weeds need to be destroyed to eliminate them from being competitors to the NPL plants and also to facilitate seeding of native prairie forbs and grasses. Next, native prairie grass and plant seeds are spread over the site. Seed mixes are specific to the site, depending on conditions. Areas with sparse plant population should be reseeded and/or replenished with prairie plant plugs. Periodic mowing is performed to strengthen the root structure of the grasses and plants and retard the regrowth of undesirable vegetation. Hand weeding and/or spot herbicide applications may be necessary to retard or eliminate competitive weeds because native prairie grasses and plants develop more slowly. Reseeding may be necessary where the initial seeding did not thrive. In the third or fourth year, the first burn is scheduled. This eliminates woody plants and weeds with shallow roots, leaving the native prairie forbs and grasses, typically having deep roots by this stage of their growth, to thrive in the post-burn season. Controlled burns are performed in the late fall or early spring when the thatch is dry, by licensed personnel following local and state regulations, when wind conditions are safe and after neighboring property owners have been properly notified.

In addition to wastewater treatment and beneficial use of biosolids, NPL is another way in which the District protects the environment, demonstrates environmental leadership and continues its role of outstanding service to the public.

District's Green Intitiatives To Restore Prairies And Manage Stormwater With Environmental Stewardship Vision

Native Prairie Landscape

The progress of NPL development can be seen in the following:

Last, an archive of NPL development photographs and native prairie grasses and plants.