The Green Bay Trail is a local treasure that one can walk, bike, jog, rollerblade, or . . . restore. And it's to this last point that the Friends of the Green Bay Trail have been dedicating their time since 2010. I've been fortunate enough to have had some free time to help with weeding and planting and I am in awe of what has been accomplished along a stretch of the trail at the Winnetka/Glencoe border.
Local writer, Holly Marihugh, has written an excellent piece about the founder of the Friends of the Green Bay Trail, Betsy Leibson, and why the restoration matters. With Holly's permission, here is her article:
Step Outside to the Big Outdoors
by Holly Marihugh
Many of us think we have to drive to a fitness center, enroll our kids on a sports team, or trudge along the same old sidewalk route when walking the dog. But there’s a close local spot for recreation that’s like walking into the big outdoors, and it’s only minutes away from homes in Glencoe or Winnetka. Just about everyone—Mom, Dad, kids, friends, and Fido--can keep fit there. It’s called the Green Bay Trail.
“You can teach your kid to ride a bike on the trail,” says Betsy Leibson, founder of Friends of the Green Bay Trail, a non-profit group of committed volunteers. “You can walk your dog. You can go running in a car-free nature setting. It's your Green Bay Trail.”
Over the past six years, Friends of the Green Bay Trail has transformed this local treasure from a dark corridor to an open trail where there’s room to breathe. “We've reclaimed about three acres of land along the trail, from Harbor Street to Woodlawn Avenue in Glencoe,” Leibson says. “Buckthorn has been eradicated and native species are flourishing, along with butterflies and birds.”
Like a virus, Buckthorn spreads its dense, dark cover and smothers and shadows out native species. The thorny bush also is annoyingly persistent and must be just as persistently stopped in its tracks. “It’s taken 10,000 hours of volunteer labor to get to where we are now,” Leibson continues. “We’ve planted over 300 new trees and shrubs, and more than 30,000 flowering plants and grasses.”
The by-product of those hours toiling in the dirt has been the return of native species, along with critical pollinators. “Friends of the Green Bay Trail has created an environment that supports pollinators, including Monarch butterflies,” Leibson says. “We have a Monarch hatchery where anyone can come watch the process of butterfly metamorphosis. Gold finches are back, and people love to see their bright color. It's all because the native birds now have native plants and insects to feed on.”
Monarchs are little creatures that along with other pollinators shoulder a big role in the food chain. According to The Washington Post, over the last 25 years, nearly a billion Monarchs have vanished due to herbicides killing off milkweed (wapo.st/2bkgobl). Monarchs lay their eggs in milkweed, and it’s the only plant that their caterpillars can eat. So survival of Monarchs is tied directly to milkweed.
“Pollinators are a critical player in supplying our food,” Leibson says. “Did you know that they’re responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat?”
Along the Green Bay Trail, Friends has created a model of sustainability that can spread to other communities. “We’re taking the lead in protecting pollinators and restoring their habitat,” Leibson says.
Now that Friends has blazed this trail, Leibson says, “We're inviting the community to support us financially so that we can maintain the trail and expand our work. Once we complete restoration from Harbor Street to Scott Avenue, we'll start working on the area from Lake Cook Road and go south along the edge of Lake Shore Country Club.”
With community help, Friends of the Green Bay Trail wants to manage the restored area by hiring a professional firm to sustain it. “We want this beautiful open, restored trail to be a place where you and your children can walk, run, and bike,” Leibson says. “We all have ownership in it. It's your Green Bay Trail.”
To donate and discover more, please click here: gbtrail.org/donate