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Native Plants Connect Man to Nature

John Opila and his wife Gail enjoy exploring DuPage forest preserves on foot or by bicycle. They’re also into native plant landscaping and gardening.

John is a longtime volunteer at the Blackwell native plant nursery. At the nursery John pulls weeds and collects native plant seeds. Retired from the food processing industry,

John also volunteers at Mayslake Forest Preserve, where he removes invasive species like buckthorn and honeysuckle. He volunteered at Mayslake from 2003 to 2008 and then returned in 2020.

John and his wife live in Burr Ridge, where they also enjoy vegetable gardening and woodworking.

Here’s his story.



Discovering DuPage Forest Preserves

I first discovered Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville in the mid 1970s when it was opening. I was an instruct for a canoe camping clinic held at the lake. I remember how disturbed the land was and never dreamed that it could be transformed into what it is today.


Favorite Forest Preserve and Time to Visit

My favorite is to ride my bicycle through the west side of Greene Valley Forest Preserve in the spring. The restoration work in the oak forest makes for an awesome floral display.



What Brings Him Back Time and Time Again

There is always something new and awe-inspiring every time we go.



Catching the Nature Bug

I was very young when our family started camping, and I have been hooked ever since. Over the years first with my family, then with the Boy Scouts and finally with my wife have been to many state and national parks around the country.


Nature’s Lessons

We are just a small part of a huge ecosystem.



Favorite Thing to Do in the Preserves

Wander wherever my intrigue leads me.

Favorite Nature Quote

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
~ John Muir

It just makes a ton of sense.


How Nature Inspires

Every time we see something new, we investigate it and learn everything we can about it.


Advice to Others

Just get out there, the inspiration is waiting for you.




If you have a fun or unique way of catching nature in our preserves and would like to be featured in a “Catching Nature” blog, please contact Deb Humiston at

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

Photo of blog author Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County welcomes more than 6.2 million visitors a year; and manages nearly 26,000 acres in 60 forest preserves containing prairies, woodlands and wetlands.

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