A Homewood-Flossmoor Park District worker is surrounded by branches of invasive species as he works to clear the area along the Coyote Run Golf Course north fence. (Provided photo)
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NICOR grant helps Coyote Run replenish oak ecosystem

A Homewood-Flossmoor Park District worker is surrounded by branches of invasive species as he works to clear the area along the Coyote Run Golf Course north fence. (Provided photo)
A Homewood-Flossmoor Park District worker is surrounded by branches of invasive species as he works to clear the area along the Coyote Run Golf Course north fence. (Provided photo)

Within the next two months, 45 oak trees and hundreds of shrubs will be planted at Coyote Run Golf Course in Flossmoor funded with a $10,000 NICOR grant.

The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District opened the golf course 20 years ago this June. Since then, invasive species had taken over along the course’s north fence line and other adjacent areas, a space about 600 yards and 20 feet wide in some places. 

Phil Knight, superintendent of golf, said a four-man crew “with chain saws and back work” worked December through February to clean out the area. Mild winter temperatures made the work possible. Knight said workers will start chipping away at removing all the brush, but it’s been too wet to take equipment to the fence line. An outside contractor took down six dead trees. 

Now the park district will use the NICOR grant, awarded through the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Region Tree Initiative, to plant white oak, burr oak and red oak trees and a variety of shrubs working with Tristain Shaw of Possibility Place Nursery in Monee. 

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Shaw, who helped the Coyote Run staff apply for the grant, said it is to restore the oak ecosystem “and that’s why I thought of the golf course. I’ve known them for a long time, planting oak trees and (their) commitment to native ecosystems, as far as a prairie. I would even say an oak ecosystem is something they’re developing here.”

Dave Ward, the retired superintendent of golf, has been helping with the project. When the park district acquired the land 20 years ago, it was an abandoned golf course that had gone to seed. As the Coyote Run course was laid out “our concept was an oak savanna, except we do have one area that is oak woodland behind the 7th green and some places along the fence line. We planted some spring ephemerals and stuff like that,” Ward said.

Shaw commended the golf maintenance crew for its outstanding efforts.

“We’re talking this golf course, as far as species diversity, is fantastic. We’re talking about hundreds of species of native plant material on this property. That’s why this property’s so important to the community. It’s not just for golf but for the environment.” 

Knight said when the NICOR-funded project was designed, Shaw helped them create a plant list for the grant.

“That north fence line is going to be the priority with all the shrubs, and there are places for some oak trees out there,” he said. “We don’t want to change the look of the place. Along the Central Park (Avenue) line, we had six trees taken down that were mostly dead.” That is the west side border.

Ward estimated there are about 300 trees on the property. About a dozen new trees are planted each year.

“You can drive around the course, it’s not like it’s an overwhelming number of trees, it’s a beautiful course. It’s appropriate for this size property,” Shaw noted. The course is 140 acres.

“Oaks are a keystone species, and they are important to all birds, mammals, moths and butterflies, caterpillars. There are around 500 species of moths and butterflies that live on oak trees,” Shaw said.

“Oak trees and trees in general, I’d say people take it for granted. They don’t understand that big old trees are coming to the end of their life cycle, so if we don’t replace the trees then we don’t have the mid-sized trees to fill the gaps.”

Ward said the park district has been using Possibility Place Nursery because the trees and shrubs are all native to this region. The nursery “grows everything from seed and all the seed is collected locally so the genetics of the plants” are adaptive to the area.

Piles of invasive species branches will be cleared away as soon as weather permits. (Provided photo)
Piles of invasive species branches will be cleared away as soon as weather permits. (Provided photo)

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