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Building a Legacy of Stewardship

When Cindy Crosby moved from the creeks and the persimmon tree-filled woods of rural Indiana to a subdivision in Glen Ellyn 14 years ago, she says: “I had a very difficult time adjusting to the big city.” Until she discovered The Morton Arboretum. “The first time I stumbled across it, I felt like I found a little oasis,” she says. “I could walk among the trees, sit by the lake and think more clearly.”

An author and gardener, Crosby wanted to fully embrace the experience of the Arboretum’s prairie and woodlands. She would soon find camaraderie and support through The Woodland Stewardship Program, founded in 2005, in which volunteers take classes and work side by side with the Arboretum’s naturalists. They cull invasive species from the 900 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, as well planting native plants and collecting seeds. The program received a donation from REI.

When she enrolled about 12 years ago, Crosby says, “I didn’t even know what an invasive species was.” Today, she is a docent and stewardship supervisor and teaches the “Write and Restore” class. The trees, the wetlands and especially Schulenburg Prairie have become her sanctuary. They are also is the subject of one of her seven books, By Willoway Brook: Exploring the Landscape of Prayer (Paraclete Press, 2003).

“The stewards provide extra hands and are instrumental in what we do,” says Kurt Dreisilker, Manager of Natural Resources, who heads the Arboretum’s ecological restoration efforts. He says stewards provide 85 percent of the labor for restoration.

Learn more about The Woodland Stewardship Program in this video funded by REI.