Community Engagement is Vital to Restoration

Volunteers from the Southeast Youth Alliance and Imani Village at Indian Ridge Marsh-South restoration project.

The multi-benefit ecosystem restoration project at Indian Ridge Marsh-South (IRMS) on Chicago’s Southeast Side got a boost in August from volunteers from the Southeast Side Youth Alliance and Imani Village who installed hundreds of native plants at the site.

Working side-by-side with staff from Friends of the Chicago River and the Chicago Park District, 10 volunteers planted a variety of native wildflowers and sedges including queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra), halberd-leaved rosmallow (Hibiscus laevis), marsh blazing star (Carex pensylvanica) and Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica). 

In partnership with the Chicago Park District and the Southeast Youth Alliance and funded by the Walder Foundation, the project will restore acres of hemi-marsh and wetland habitat, offsetting centuries of degradation through pollution, altered hydrology, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species. The project site is also located in a FEMA Flood Hazard Area and will reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and pollution. A boardwalk has been built which will allow for improved public access.

 “Our goal is to improve the Chicago-Calumet River system to benefit people and wildlife, and connecting with local residents at the site is a key part of our restoration effort,” said Becky Lyons, Friends’ director of environment, equity, and engagement. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Southeast Youth Alliance and Imani Village to engage people in the restoration process through community planting days, and we look forward to hosting a celebratory event in October to really activate that space together.” Another community planting day is scheduled for Saturday, September 17, added Lyons.

 The IRMS project serves as a model and catalyst for the Greater Chicago Watershed Alliance (originally established as the Chicago-Calumet River Watershed Council) , and is essential to addressing the multi-faceted challenges that communities and the environment face due to the climate crisis, poorly managed stormwater, industrial and development impacts, and environmental degradation. Initiated by Friends of the Chicago River, the 19-member Watershed Council is a diverse set of partner organizations collaborating to manage stormwater across traditional jurisdictions using nature based solutions which bring multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits with them.