Portwine Restoration

blazing star flowers in an open field at the Portwine restoration area in summer 2016.
Portwine restoration area in summer 2016.

This project has restored habitat for plants and animals native to our sedge meadows and woodlands at Portwine, Dam No. 1 Woods and Willow-Sanders properties. Brush and tree removal has significantly increased the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground, encouraging the growth of grasses, sedges and wildflowers. These improvements provide food and shelter to a greater diversity of wildlife and slow surface water to allow more absorption and groundwater recharge.


The design for the initial restoration project began in 2008, in consultation with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. In winter 2013, the first phase of work began with small-scale, targeted brush clearing in more sensitive areas. The second phase, started in winter 2014, focused on the removal of trees in the area. In some areas, select trees were left in place, creating savanna and providing a buffer from street traffic. The second phase cost $500,000, and was paid for with wetland mitigation funds from the Illinois Tollway Authority.

Many of the trees removed during the project were invasive species that encroached on previously open land in the absence of fire. Others were planted in the middle of the last century, when conservation efforts were biased toward preserving forested landscapes. As the field of conservation has evolved, however, scientists have come to understand the critical role of sedge meadows, grasslands and other open environments in preserving our region’s complete biodiversity.

For the first time, the Forest Preserves used most of the wood removed for restoration to produce lumber and firewood. (It is typically either burned or chipped onsite.) This saved approximately $235,000 over the course of the project.

The initial restoration project was officially competed in June 2018.

In 2018, a smaller restoration project began at Willow-Sanders to expand the current sedge meadow and prairie habitat.

Work History

2018-19: Removing brush and trees at Willow-Sanders to expand the current sedge meadow and prairie habitat.

June 2018: Initial restoration project officially competed.

2017-18: Completed the first phase of the project. Work continued at the south side of Dam No. 1 Woods, near Willow Road. Restoration of both oak savanna and maple forest habitats began with brush removal and some tree thinning. This area expanded the open sedge meadow and wet prairie habitat northwest of the corner of Willow and Sanders Roads.

Work began at the southeast corner of Lake-Cook and Portwine Roads to expand on a small sedge meadow community tucked into the woods by removing brush and aggressive trees surrounding the sedge meadow. Ongoing follow up of all the project areas continued in the summer of 2018.

Winter 2016-17: Approximately 70 acres of trees and brush were removed from Dam No. 1 Woods along the Des Plaines River Trail.

Winter 2015-16: Roughly 38 acres of brush removed along Forest View Drive, Sanders Rd and Willow Rd. An additional 40 acres of trees and brush removed in Dam No. 1 Woods along the Des Plaines River Trail.

Winter 2014-15: Roughly 64 acres of trees cleared north of Dundee Rd, south of Forest View Drive, east of Portwine Rd, and west of I-294; 11 acres cleared at Dam No. 1 Woods, south of Dundee Rd and north of the Des Plaines River Trail.