Flint Creek Savanna (FCS) is Citizens for Conservation’s largest and most biologically diverse preserve. It is comprised of savanna, creek, wetland and prairie restorations. The initial thirty-three acres acquired in 1988 have grown to almost 160 acres as a result of CFC's direct acquisitions and donations from generous benefactors. CFC members and donors provided the $1.4 million dollars to purchase this property, an extraordinary accomplishment for a private non-governmental organization.
Flint Creek Savanna is vital to CFC’s vision of a protected corridor of natural land along Flint Creek from Barrington Hills in the south to the Fox River in the north. This greenway has expanded over the past twenty-two years due to major acquisitions by the Lake County Forest Preserve District. The Village of Lake Barrington has also added to the greenway.
The Savanna has grown since 2009 when CFC partnered with the Village of Lake Barrington to jointly preserve what was known as the Gibbs Property, located at the northwest corner of US Route 14 and Cuba Road. Through a series of transactions in 2009, 2013 and 2018, CFC has acquired a total of twelve acres from the original thirty acres, and the balance remains protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement on land that the village still owns.
In 2011, Barrington Bank & Trust generously gave CFC approximately eleven acres of open land located along Northwest Highway in Lake Barrington. That year CFC also acquired three additional acres in the Foley Subdivision. In 2015, CFC put its capital funds to work again by acquiring approximately thirteen acres along Flint Creek in the Pepper Road Business Park in the Village of Lake Barrington. Later that year a generous donation from the Kainz family, owners of The Onion Pub and Brewery and strong conservation supporters, increased FCS by 4.5 acres. Finally, in 2016, the preserve grew again thanks to the generous donation of four acres from Barbara A. Smith and Dr. Smith and the other owners of Lake Barrington Professional Office Condominium Association (LBPOCA). The tract is located just east of CFC Headquarters on Route 22.
CFC received funding for restoration, and Flint Creek Savanna is all about restoration. The property presented both challenges and opportunities. It was ecologically degraded when CFC acquired it. The open areas had been farmed, and cattle had grazed the oak-hickory savannas, eating all the native wildflowers. When the cattle left, brush moved in.
Flint Creek meandered through floodplains full of reed canary grass, and silt washed downstream from farms and construction in Lake Barrington, Barrington Hills and Barrington. However, the basics of the property were there: majestic 100- to 200-year-old oaks and hickories, including the largest white oak in Lake County. There were open areas for wetland and prairie restorations and a mile stretch of Flint Creek.
CFC has been busy restoring the ecosystems. Volunteers have cleared brush from the savannas and planted rescued wildflowers. They collected prairie seed from remnants along the railroad tracks and spread it in the open areas.
Developers paid for two wetland mitigations. (These mitigations were mandated to replace wetlands the builders had destroyed.) United States Fish & Wildlife Service, United States Department of Agriculture Urban Resources Partnership, Cuba Township, The Garden Club of Barrington and Donnelley Foundation funded restoration along Flint Creek including the installation of native plant plugs in critical areas of the floodplain, savanna, and prairie. CFC expanded the pond near its office to create fish habitat and created additional filter marshes to clean storm water runoff.
Oberweiler Foundation helped CFC by funding summer interns who have weeded, sprayed, planted plugs, collected and spread native seed, and monitored water quality. CFC linked trails by placing a rock bridge across the creek while scouts built wetland bridges. Through Chicago Wilderness, L.L.Bean funded trail improvements.
The results are spectacular. There are over 200 species of grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Three bird species nesting on the preserves are on Illinois' list of “species in greatest need of conservation”: savannah sparrow, sedge wren, and sandhill crane. The savannas are free of brush, full of wildflowers and alive with bluebirds, indigo buntings and kingbirds.
The creek and reed canary grass floodplains still need work, but native sedges and wildflowers like swamp milkweed line the banks. Chorus frogs sing among the bulrushes and lily pads in the wetlands. The prairie is an ever-changing palette of colors with hoary puccoon and violet wood sorrel in the spring, orange butterfly weed and purple prairie clover in the summer and blue asters, goldenrod species and the strawberry-hued blades of little bluestem in the fall. Colorful monarch, fritillary and swallowtail butterflies crown many forbs.
This growth of natural habitat would have been impossible without the generous donations that have allowed us to save these properties and restore the healthy habitat they were meant to have. The Barrington area is the beneficiary of this beautiful land.