News - McHenry County

Black Friday becomes Green Friday in McHenry County as volunteers help restore half-dozen conservation sites

Volunteers, such as Woodstock North High School junior Malaika Parpart, help clear brush and invasive species at Boone Creek Conservation Area in Bull Valley, one of half a dozen sites being restored on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, as part of McHenry County Conservation District's Green Friday initiative.

Instead of shopping on Black Friday, Woodstock North High School juniors Malaika Parpart and Owen Bonnett decided to do something a little different: clear away invasive brush at Boone Creek Conservation Area in Bull Valley.

“Sure, I’ll cut down buckthorn for three hours – it’s fun,” Parpart said. “Personally, I’m not a fan of Black Friday, so this is a great alternative.”

Parpart and Bonnett were part of about a half-dozen members of Woodstock North’s Green Club, who along with another 10 volunteers cleared brush and cut away debris as part of “Restoration Day: Green Friday,” an initiative by the McHenry County Conservation District.

Volunteers and stewards helped at restoration efforts at six sites around the county Friday, including Alden Sedge Meadow, Boger Bog, Boone Creek, Exner Marsh, Pioneer Fen and Stickney Run, according to the conservation district.

Volunteers, such as University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point freshman Zach Klemm, help clear brush and invasive species at Boone Creek Conservation Area in Bull Valley, one of half a dozen sites being restored on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, as part of McHenry County Conservation District's Green Friday initiative.

The restoration of Boone Creek and other sites involved removing invasive species so that native oak could thrive, either by natural processes or volunteer plantings down the road, said Jake Hadden, a volunteer who was leading the work at the Pioneer Fen site in Johnsburg.

Buckthorn, which was brought to the region as a hedge bush more than a hundred years ago, is a particularly quick-spreading invasive species, said Hadden, who teaches chemistry at Johnsburg High School and sometimes brings his students out to the site.

“The birds love it, so they eat it, drop it elsewhere and it spreads,” Hadden said. “It gets so thick, it blocks sunlight and takes over. You can see at the [Pioneer] Fen, you can tell the difference when we clear it. It makes a huge difference.”

In addition to being fulfilling work, the restoration day provided excellent practice to the Green Club students, club adviser and educational therapist Roxann Monti said.

“This is our first time as a club coming out [to an event],” Monti said. “The club is all about ecology and planting, so this is a great opportunity.”

Volunteers help clear brush and invasive species at Boone Creek Conservation Area in Bull Valley, one of half a dozen sites being restored on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, as part of McHenry County Conservation District's Green Friday initiative.

Another volunteer, Zach Klemm, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, said his goal was to become a conservation law enforcement officer.

“Nature means a lot to me,” Klemm said. “It’s great to restore land back to what it once looked like, maybe an oak savanna. It’s great to be out here today.”

Students at Woodstock North have an opportunity to learn about matters such as recycling and planting in their immediate school environment, Monti said. But Bonnett said he thinks there should be more of an emphasis on promoting conservation and a related event within the community.

“It’s nice to be outdoors today,” Bonnett said, noting that the holiday typically is spent inside.

For information on upcoming restoration days, go to anc.apm.activecommunities.com/mccdistrict.