Centennial Volunteers are a part of a community of like-minded individuals who are not afraid to get dirty, get some exercise and have fun outside.
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Help restore the Chicago River system by joining the Centennial Volunteers. Volunteers will learn about our forest preserves, enjoy natural areas close to home and make a tangible difference to our environment. Volunteers will be trained by experts in restoration and resource management and be involved in regular volunteer days on the weekends throughout the year.
A coalition of organizations—including Friends of the Chicago River, Audubon Chicago Region, North Branch Restoration Project, Friends of the Forest Preserves and the Forest Preserves of Cook County—established the Centennial Volunteers in 2014 to mark the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s 100th anniversary.
The Centennial Volunteers conduct ecological restoration projects in the Chicago and Calumet river basins at nine locations. One of the main goals of the initiative is to engage 6,000 volunteers, inspiring individuals to become dedicated site stewards and volunteers for the Forest Preserves.
If you are interested in developing a stronger role on one of these sites or choose another forest preserve site, you can be trained by the Forest Preserves of Cook County in invasive removal, pesticide application, and volunteer management. These training sessions are free of charge and offered regularly, throughout the year.
Located on the Little Calumet River, just East of Altgeld Gardens, Beaubien Woods has been the subject of restoration work from volunteers and student groups working with The Field Museum for over a decade. Every first Saturday (except July and August), volunteers are out removing invasive species and planting natives, each year increasing the biodiversity of this historic site.
Blue Star Memorial Woods
Join North Branch Restoration Project volunteers as we work to remove invasives such as buckthorn and garlic mustard, helping the rich understory of this ecosystem to thrive. Along with restoring the beautiful oak woodland and sedge meadow ecosystem, we are repairing gullies that carry excess stormwater to the Chicago River as well as contribute to sedimentation in the river.
Clayton Smith Woods
Join the North Branch Restoration Project with the Centennial Volunteers to restore this oak woodland to its former beauty! This 76 acre site is new to restoration and will depend on the community of volunteers to remove invasive species, spread native seed, and much more. Large pin oaks are a unique feature of this preserve, which is also home to some beautiful spring ephemerals.
*Clayton Smith Woods is located at the Bunker Hill entrance
Forest Glen Woods
Forest Glen is brand new to volunteer stewardship. This unique woodland, savanna, and floodplain ecosystem needs help from our volunteer community to remove invasive plants, collect and distribute native seeds, and reduce erosion issues.
Kickapoo Woods has over 70 acres under restoration. One Stewardship Day a month is dedicated to a remnant prairie. Another focuses on improving the floodplain and banks of the Little Calumet River, threatened by stormwater and sediment.
Join the North Branch Restoration Project with the Centennial Volunteers and Chicago Ornithological Society as we remove buckthorn and other invasive species, protecting the native woodland, savanna and floodplain ecosystems. We are investing heavily in restoring the understory of the forest to provide much needed habitat for the over 168 species of birds who call LaBagh Woods home for part of the year.
River Oaks Woods
This small preserve near Sand Ridge Nature Center contains a grassland, wetland, oak woodland, and floodplain along the Little Calumet. Once degraded by arson and illegal dumping, volunteers are helping revitalize it as part of a wildlife corridor.
Somme Woods-East, the furthest east of the Somme Preserves, has bur and white oak woodlands with massive old oaks, open marshes, and ephemeral ponds. Rich with native plants and animals, they are being restored to their original beauty. Many rare plants and animals call this preserve home, and many more will join them in the years to come.
This preserve along the Little Calumet River is home to abundant deer, birds, frogs, bicyclists, and tugboats. With a working steel mill next door, it shows how industry and nature can coexist. A volunteer community has formed here to nurture flowers, fight erosion, and revitalize Whistler.
The Centennial Volunteers initiative is coordinated by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Friends of the Chicago River, Friends of the Forest Preserves, The Field Museum and the Chicago Ornithological Society.