DeKalb Nature Trail Native Landscape Plan and Restoration

DeKalb Park District


DeKalb, IL

The DeKalb Nature Trail is a popular multi-use pathway within the City of DeKalb. The pathway, which spans approximately 1.5 miles, had previously been surrounded by a dense woodland area, but was cleared of all existing vegetation for a utility line right-of-way. The clearing had severely degraded the habitat quality and overall aesthetics of the pathway and allowed for non-native and invasive species to become dominant throughout the area. ENCAP, Inc. was originally contracted to develop the native landscape and restoration plan, and later to implement the plan in several phases.

Using information gathered from an initial site survey, ENCAP, Inc. produced the native landscape and restoration plan tailored to the specific needs of the site, including planting lists and specifications. ENCAP conducted public outreach to gather input from the community, and produced 3-D models that provided a visualization of the potential results of the proposed plan. The plan included invasive woody tree/shrub removal, native shrub planting, incorporation of woodland, mesic prairie and wet mesic prairie seeding, and native garden entryways with educational signage. The plan was approved with Park Board and community support in 2018.

After approval, ENCAP, Inc. was contracted to implement the plan and performed invasive tree and shrub removal, herbicide application, native seeding and shrub planting over the course of several phases. The final section of the trail planting plan was completed in 2021, and native plant community stewardship will continue through 2024. The restored areas are developing high-quality plant communities and providing a valuable habitat and community recreation resource.

ENCAP, Inc. was retained in 2017 to complete a thorough site analysis and restoration plan for the DeKalb Nature Trail corridor. Consisting of 1.3 miles of heavily used trail, the path is bordered by ComEd right-ofway that negates the ability to plant mature trees that once existed along the trail. ENCAP, Inc. created a native landscape plan to incorporate high quality prairie and wet meadow areas along the trail, as well as incorporate native shrub plantings and existing invasive species management to improve aesthetics and ecological function.

Components of the plan included:
• Creation of an existing conditions exhibit detailing existing conditions and proposed actions.
• Invasive species management plan
• Species selection for plantings and native landscape specifications
• Presentations and feedback survey initiation at organized public meetings
• Creation of visual aids to demonstrate proposed plant communities
• Discussion of implementation priorities, and potential for partnerships with local groups
• Direct coordination with the District, Public, ComEd, and other stakeholders.

Photo taken: September 30, 2020

DeKalb Nature Trail