The DeKalb Nature Trail was replanted Thursday, half a year after ComEd removed most of the growth below its overhead transmission lines.
Tiny bushes and starter trees now stand where thick brush and towering trees once were all along one side of the mile-long nature trail. It’s the start of a long-term process of restoring the trail’s beauty after ComEd clear-cut below the utility lines that run along its entire length. ComEd, the DeKalb Park District, the DeKalb Forest Preserve, and a few citizens spent months coming up with a plan using shrubs and short trees that will never come close to touching the power lines. Most of the trail falls under the purview of the DeKalb Park District, except for a stretch maintained by the Forest Preserve and, of course, the strip ComEd keeps clear under its transmission lines. Last month, the Forest Preserve and volunteers planted more than 100 trees and bushes in the stretch of the trail it maintains. Park District executive director Cindy Capek says Thursday’s planting added another 425 bushes that will someday reach heights of six to twenty feet. 25 trees and prairie grasses are still to come.
“The most rewarding part is that it’s a sustainable plan, now and forever. It works with the lines and the trail, and over time, it will be gorgeous.”
ComEd paid for the plants and performed some of the labor. Michelle Blaise is Vice President of Engineering for ComEd. She says while the company faced strong criticism from residents for the extent of the plant removal, ComEd’s priority remains safe and reliable electricity delivery. But she adds the extensive work by the volunteer group made up of representatives from the company, the parks, and neighbors led the company to revise its plans -- that includes donating three times the number of plants they had originally planned. Asked if this will change the way ComEd approaches “vegetation management” in the future, Blaise tells WNIJ the company is always looking for ways to improve. She says in the end, the effort will bring back native plants and prairie grasses to the trail, which will be “a source of enjoyment for generations to come.” Capek says it’s important to remember that ComEd wasn’t obligated to take part in the restoration at all.
After some more work helping control invasive plants along the trail, the DeKalb Nature Path restoration is pretty much over for ComEd. Now it’s up to the Park District to nurture its new native habitat, which will require time and a little attention to establish.
Click here to see ComEd’s video simulation of how the DeKalb Nature Trail will eventually look.
Click here for the working group’s plan, which includes the types of plants to be used and a time frame for restoration efforts.