Scenes from the Homewood Memorial Day parade

This diagram shows plans for rehabilitating 
a stagnant pond at Irons Oaks Environmental 
Learning Center. To see the full-size version, 
click on the image above. 

(Provided image)

A stagnant pond at Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center will one day be a wetland space surrounded by a host of plants that will help restore the surroundings to a beautiful space.

Cheryl Vargo, manager of Irons Oaks, said Upland Design of Plainfield has laid out plans for the restoration. The plan was paid for with a grant from ComEd and Openlands.

Irons Oaks staff is hoping to get funding to bring the project to life, and has applied for water quality, diversity and habitat grants, said Cheryl Vargo, Irons Oaks manager.

When Irons Oaks was being developed, a hole for a pond was dug and a rubber lining was set in place. Now, more than three decades later, the pond “is like a stagnant swimming pool,” because it doesn’t allow for water filtration, said Vargo. The pond is polluted and the deteriorating condition is not conducive to plant growth.

The plans also include the area around the pond which is low and takes on runoff from Irons Oaks and the surrounding neighborhood, Vargo added.

As part of the restoration, Upland has recommended the water path be dredged to include four separate areas within the flow. Each area would be deeper than the rest of the wetland to attract a variety of aquatic life and plants.

The design has segmented the area into four sections and given recommendations on what plants would be best for each segment—woodland wetland/riparian; upland prairie; wet to mesic prairie; aquatic and emergent plugs (for the water); sedge wet meadow.

Vargo said there are at least 100 plant varieties staff can choose from.

Upland Design previously worked with Irons Oaks and Homewood-Flossmoor Park District staff on a master plan.

Vargo said the first project on the master plan is improved parking “which I know isn’t glamorous, but when we have four or five buses and then cars to park we are running out of space.”

The plan also includes a nature playground and a pavilion off the back of the Irons Oaks office building at 20000 Western Ave.

Irons Oaks, at the intersection of Vollmer Road and Western Avenue, was created from three pieces of property. The land was subdivided and ready for development when community members, led by Betty Irons, worked to save the land and keep it a natural area.

The Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center is a joint project of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District and the Olympia Fields Park District.


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