Fall 2019 Conservationist

Destination: Discovery

Danada Readies for Annual Fall Festival


Sure, you can drive to the outskirts this time of year to stare at a corn maze, pick through pumpkins or see some scarecrows. But there’s only one place where you can watch daredevil riders on horseback, take a Percheron-drawn hayride through the autumn woods, meet an acrylic-painting Appaloosa-Clydesdale, step in a stall that housed a Kentucky Derby winner and eat great food — all without leaving DuPage.

On Oct. 13 Danada Equestrian Center will be hosting its annual Danada Fall Festival, the Forest Preserve District’s largest one-day event. With flashy fall colors overhead and scenic white-fenced paddocks all around, the festival remains a matchless celebration of the equestrian life that defined Danada before it became a well-known forest preserve.
Admission and parking are free, but there are fees for some activities. Details are in our calendar of events.


Kline Creek Farm Pumps It Up for Parlor Guests


If you haven’t toured the farmhouse museum at Kline Creek Farm in a while, you’re in for a melodic treat.

In 1987 a generous family from Lombard donated a 1864 Smith American pump organ to the farm. Since then, the piece has been the focal point of the farmhouse parlor.

A player pumps the foot pedals to fill bellows inside the organ with air. Each time a key is pressed, air rushes up a metal “reed,” causing the reed to vibrate and generate a sound. Each reed is tuned to a different pitch. To alter the sound, the player pulls out one or more knobs above the keyboard called “stops.” (This is where we get the expression “pulling out all the stops.”)

The instrument started to have mechanical problems in 2018, and after some in-house repairs the farm contracted with a company in Tennessee to rebuild the mechanical components, replace missing woodwork, and refinish the cabinet. It took the entire summer, but now at the end of each farmhouse tour visitors can hear one of the signature sounds of 1890s farm family entertainment. Tours are free and run Thursday through Monday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on the hour. To read more about the renovation, check out our blog post.


Mayslake Steps Up Staircase Restoration


Like the rest of Mayslake Hall, the main staircase was designed by renowned Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall. It’s the most important design feature of the mansion and has survived since 1921 nearly in its original condition. It’s been repaired several times but had never been restored by skilled woodworkers — until now.

The first job was to remove carpet the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart had installed when it owned the mansion. Below the worn textiles were the original butternut treads and risers and walnut landing. After restoring these features, experts tested several stains (shown below) to select ones that matched the original finishes.

The balustrade (the vertical spindles that support the handrail) will be restored at a later date, but a thorough cleaning with mineral spirits revealed a lighter finish, a sign that nearly 100 years of time, smoke, light exposure and cleaning projects had dulled and darkened the wood. The final step of the current restoration project will be to install a period-appropriate runner sometime in September.

Go to the Mayslake Peabody Estate page for the hall's hours so you can plan your next visit. We think you’ll agree the revitalized staircase dramatically transforms the stately entryway. We think Mr. Peabody would have agreed, too.


Willowbrook, Fullersburg Welcome Little Devils


Visitors to Willowbrook Wildlife Center and Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center will be some of the first in the county to learn about the Forest Preserve District’s “devilish” efforts to help federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonflies.

In the wild, devil crayfish create 4- to 6-foot-deep burrows for shelter and access to groundwater during droughts. In habitats they share with Hine’s emerald dragonflies, the dragonflies’ larvae may use the burrows for homes of their own. To give the young Hine’s emeralds more real estate options, the Forest Preserve District is formulating a program for raising devil crayfish in captivity to release in the wild.

This winter, visitors will have an exclusive opportunity to see live devil crayfish at both Willowbrook and Fullersburg Woods and to learn about the pioneering captive-rearing program. Behind the scenes, staff will be working with their coworkers in the Forest Preserve District’s Natural Resources department to develop the artificial habitats needed to breed and raise the crayfish. In spring they’ll collect eggs and care for the developing crayfish through summer before releasing them into appropriate wild habitats.


Summer Camp 2020


The school year’s just started, but like so many kids settling into homework, study halls and pop quizzes, the Forest Preserve District is already thinking about summer.

As in 2019, in 2020 we’ll have camps for kids entering grades 1 – 8, each tying in with forest preserve experiences and many with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math. With plenty of time for team-building, exploration and play, kids might not realize they’re firing up new neurons as they’re making new friends!

Registration opens Jan. 1, and descriptions and fees go online in December, so add a link to our camps page in your calendar and think summer!