wolf road prairie

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"How foolish we were to trust our senses - our eyesight and our hearing - at a moment and in a place such as this.

These were not stars and fireflies that we saw glistening in the darkened sky. They were the campfires of a hundred generations of peoples, of families who lived, loved, played, fought and died on this sacred ground.

The crackling and rustling were not twigs and leaves as we first thought, they were the echos of the ages still recording the passing of all those who went before us.

The low rumble and grinding of the glaciers as they moved with geological slowness and certainty, back and forth wearing smooth this beautiful meadow.

The crackling, sparking and roar of the prairie fires, consuming and cleansing this earth in preparation of new life yet to come.

Two different people walked out of the prairie that night, more a part of and connected to their earth than they had ever been before."

- By Art Gara

"According to the pamphlet, Wolf Road Prairie - A Living History Museum, the land at Wolf Road and 31st Street was originally "too wet to plow or graze exensively," allowing the prairie to "survive over a century of settlement relatively unharmed."

In more recent times, said FPD naturalist Jerry Sullivan, [webmistress note: now deceased and we miss him] the prairie owed its continued survival to an unfortunately-timed business venture. "The land was supposed to be a subdivision, planned and laid out just before the crash of 1929," he explained. "Sidewalks were poured - you can walk through the prairie on them - but no buildings were ever built." After the war, land use-codes changed and the lots were considered to small to build on. "Thus," says the pamphlet, "[the prairie's] community of rare, threatened and endangered species survived miraculously to the present day."

Local conservationists "discovered" the prairie around 1970. Incorporated in 1975 as the not-for-profit Save the Prairie Society, they worked with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to purchase sixteen blocks - "four dozen plus lots," said STPS executive director Valerie Spale - from their original owners , over a ten-year period. STPS has been restoring and managing the site ever since.

In 1988, Wolf Road Prairie became a Dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve. Don McFall, of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, explained that this designation is offered only to "the rarest of the rare." A dedicated site "usually contains pre-settlement natural communities," he said.

The STPS offers free monthly tours or programs to introduce newcomers to the wonders of the site, or guests can wander in at will. Visitors can park at the entrance kiosk, located on 31st St., 1/2 block west of Wolf Road. The old sidewalks begin just behing the kiosk, which consists of a large, glass-enclosed cork board. Notices about restoration work, photos and posters illustrating which flowers and grasses are visible during the month and schedules of the Prairie Society's programs are usually posted."

From "Sailing the Thistled Seas", by Karen Green
Wednesday Journal, Sept. 15, 1999

For more information or to take a virtual tour, visit Save the Prairie's website at SaveThePrairieSociety.org

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