The Highlands

CFC acquired this 24.88-acre parcel of open space in March 2022.  The property, adjacent to Rt 14 in Barrington, is strategically located between three other CFC properties and continues to fulfil CFC’s long-range mission of saving and building habitat corridors for native plant and wildlife species. This important purchase was made possible by our donors, members, and a generous grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation which funded 80% of the purchase price and provided a $10,000 budget to jumpstart restoration work.

The Highlands property lies between CFC’s Grigsby Prairie and Craftsbury Preserves, with immediate connectivity to the Mullins Parcel—see map above.

CFC’s evaluation determined that The Highlands could be a strong, ecological value-added restoration site to deliver benefits to the community.

Though currently degraded with buckthorn, the Highlands has remained generally open over the decades.  Based on aerial images dating back to the 1930s, it appears that the site has always been kept open in a natural state. There may have been some cattle grazing under the oaks, but the continued burning from the railroad companies allowed the ecosystems to still hang on. The only apparent disturbance was the installation of a natural gas line where a berm was built to cover the pipe and is now part of the trail system.  This site shows ecological integrity and small remnant populations of important native plants are still hanging on. With CFC’s restoration support the site will have a diversity of ecosystems from dry hill prairie to savanna to wetland sedge meadows. In addition, The Highlands restoration project will be a way to pay homage to CFC’s humble restoration beginnings. In the 1980s, Tom Vanderpoel and restoration volunteers scoured the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks to collect seed of rare native prairie and savanna species. There is no doubt that Tom knew all about the remnant vestiges on the Highlands property. High-quality native prairie species are still hanging on along the steep rocky slopes adjacent to the railroad including: Leiberg’s panic grass, flowering spurge, porcupine grass, rough blazing star and Culver’s root. Large bur oaks and shagbark hickories still protect nice savanna patches lush in remnant sedges and sprinkled with nodding wild onion, wild geranium, and Jacob’s ladder. CFC plans to liberate these degraded remnant portions starting in the Fall of 2022. This will allow these species to flourish once again as we broadcast our seed mixes to fill in the gaps where the buckthorn invasion had taken over.

Attention will then be shifted to freeing up large oaks on the rugged Barrington Hills topography adjacent to the Barrington Hills Country Club golf course. Seeds from the remnant savanna species will be used to jumpstart a new savanna restoration under these trees. Overall, the site will have a huge diversity of ecosystems from dry hill prairie, to savanna, to wetland sedge meadows. Using techniques that have worked at Craftsbury coupled with the relatively intact nature of the site.