The Forest Preserve District and DuPage County Stormwater Management began a 350-acre multiyear restoration project at West Branch Forest Preserve in Bartlett in 2013. This project will restore 1 mile of the West Branch of the DuPage River, 90 acres of wetlands, the 34-acre Klein Fen (a rare type of wetland) and adjoining prairies. In addition to providing healthier habitat for native wildlife, the preserve will receive and store stormwater to benefit neighboring residents.
At one time the land that makes up the preserve contained wet prairies, marshes and fens, and scattered woodlands; these habitats were lost as farmers tilled the prairie and buried clay tiles to drain the soil for crops and pastures. The West Branch of the DuPage River was deepened and straightened to carry water away from agricultural fields and accommodate stormwater runoff, leading to further loss of habitat and floodwater protection. These changes coupled with stormwater drainage from surrounding developments all contributed to an altered landscape. Aggressive and nonnative woody trees and shrubs, such as buckthorn and box elder, took advantage of the disturbance and invasive species populated these artificially-drained areas.
West Branch Forest Preserve and its trails will remain open during most of the work, which should be substantially completed by 2015, but visitors should be careful near construction areas and follow all signs and workers’ instructions.
During January 2015, contracted crews will be removing trees from the Klein Fen that are visible from Klein Road. This work will provide optimal conditions for this rare type of wetland. The area outlined on the map below depicts the fen restoration project area.