Superior Street Prairie
Superior Street PrairieSuperior Street Prairie is one of the highest quality natural areas in the Chicago region and in the entire state of Illinois. This 35-acre tract provides a glimpse of what the surrounding region looked like prior to European settlement, development and the influence of our modern landscape.
This site is unique in many aspects. The soils are made up of ancient beach sand deposited when Lake Michigan was much larger than it is today. The old beach ridges and swales are still present and strongly influence what grows there. Black and white oaks form savannas on the high ridges, and in the lower, wetter swales are numerous ferns, sedges and wetland plants. The large, flat areas support sand prairie, which is characterized by a treeless expanse dominated by grasses and flowers. These are indeed unique natural communities that support over 300 native plant species, including at least three that are listed as state endangered or threatened.
In 1998, the site was enrolled in the State’s Land & Water Reserve program. While it is owned by the Calumet Memorial Park District, its protection and management is overseen by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. This example of a natural landscape is permanently preserved for future generations. It is open to the public for passive recreation such as hiking, bird watching and photography. By law, development of the site and active recreation are prohibited. All site uses and activities need to be approved by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.
Superior Street Prairie is not an ordinary park or forest preserve; a unique site like this requires a different style of management. Invasive exotic species (usually native to Europe and Asia) such as purple loosestrife, glossy buckthorn and bush honeysuckle are regularly controlled by cutting and the application of herbicides. If left unchecked, exotic species can crowd out the native species that make this site so special. Controlled fire is another important element of Superior Street Prairie; it maintains its open character and also helps control invasive exotic species. The thinning of certain trees and shrubs also occurs on a regular basis to help maintain the plant diversity on site; too much shade will eliminate prairie and wetland species. While it may appear that some of the management activities at Superior Street Prairie may harm the site, they are all carefully performed with the sole intent of maintaining its unique, high quality character.
The long-term plan for this site is to continue to manage and maintain the unique natural features of Superior Street Prairie while allowing for passive public use. A mowed foot-trail, interpretive signs, picnic table and gazebo may eventually be developed to facilitate visitor use. It should be open for park district residents’ education and visitation compatible with the site’s long-term preservation.
For more information about Superior Street Prairie, contact Kim Roman of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission at 847-608-3100, ext. 2038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.