Greenspace

And Trail System

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More than 1,700 acres of Greenspace (open spaces) scattered throughout The Territory are maintained as natural habitat and protected from future development, including the 7-mile shoreline of Lake Galena. Wild turkey, white-tailed deer and red fox are frequently seen, along with hawks and eagles soaring overhead. Woods and meadows are lush with grasses, flowers, ferns, shrubs and trees May through October. With 24 miles of trails winding through Greenspace, hikers can spend a day enjoying the serenity and solitude that only nature can provide.

The trails closest to Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa are paved and suitable for jogging, power walking and other activities that require sure footing. Some of these trails also have lookout platforms for beautiful panoramas of Lake Galena and the countryside.

The majority of the trails are natural and not paved. They are rugged and sometimes wet and slippery depending on prevailing weather conditions. However, that just adds to their charm! Hiking and horseback riding are two of the most popular pastimes here and can be enjoyed year-round. Although the trails are not groomed for cross-country skiing, Association members and their guests can break their own trails and discover the beauty and winter solitude of The Galena Territory.

*An amenity card and parking pass are required to access all Galena Territory Association facilities and common properties
(Lake Galena, Owners' Club Complex, Greenspace & Trails and both of The Territory refuse centers).

Greenspace & Trails Reports

By Emily Lubcke, Natural Resources Coordinator, 815- 777-2000, ext. 131

 
Originally appeared in the Territory Times November 2020
Oak woodlands once dominated the Jo Daviess County landscape. The woodlands had open canopies, allowing plenty of light to ground to recruit oak trees for the next generation and support a diverse understory of herbaceous and shrubby plants. This plant diversity supported a wide variety of wildlife, including songbirds, insects, mammals, and reptiles. Through changes in land management, once-dominant oaks are being replaced by shade-tolerant maple, ash, elm, black walnut, basswood and hackberry trees in a process called mesophication. As a result, the canopies of our woodlands are denser and less light reaches the ground, reducing herbaceous and shrub vegetation, oak recruitment, and wildlife diversity.

SEVERAL REASONS FOR REDUCTION
European settlement led to the decline in oak woodlands. Lead mining operations in Jo Daviess County used oak wood to fire smelters. Mining gave way to farming, which had a greater impact on oaks, as trees were felled to increase farming opportunities. As equipment mechanized and grew increasingly larger, more acres of oak communities were removed. This is still occurring, as windrows and waterways continue to be bulldozed for the almighty row crop.

Jo Daviess County has a large number of grazing animals, now and historically, because the rolling topography makes row-cropping more challenging. Grazing practices mimic fires by preventing seedlings of woody species from surviving. Although grazing maintains an open structure within woodlands, it also prevents oak recruitment. Grazing modified the shrub layer to what is observed today: An overabundance of unpalatable thorny species, such as raspberry, gooseberry, and prickly ash.

Historically, the shrub layer included hazelnut, serviceberry, viburnum, dogwood, and witch hazel. If you purchase these species from a nursery today, the planting requirements include full-to-partial sun: Conditions present when these species thrived in our open oak woodlands.

The greatest change in land management that negatively impacted oak woodlands, both historically and today, was cessation of fires. Historically, fires that crossed this landscape prevented fire-sensitive species, such as maple, ash, elm, and basswood, from dominating the landscape and kept the oak canopy open, allowing continued recruitment of oak saplings. The mature oak canopy we enjoy today is the legacy of fire management implemented by Native Americans.

BEST PRACTICES IN WOODLAND MANAGEMENT
Oak woodland management is occurring across the Midwest, including The Galena Territory, to reverse mesophication and ensure oak trees remain dominant for the next 200 or more years. Best management practices to ensure oak recruitment and increased ground- and shrub-layer plant diversity include: control invasive species; re-introduce prescribed fire; control the deer population; and remove trees from the canopy and mid-story so more sunlight reaches the ground.

Observations and studies at other sites across the Midwest show that oak woodlands have the best chance of being sustained through a multi-faceted approach using these management strategies. These projects are long-term and will have an impact for many generations to come.

YOU CAN HELP
Property owners can help by encouraging oak trees to thrive on private property: Gather and plant acorns and plant new oak trees. Several species of oaks will be available during the spring native plant sale in 2021. Watch for more information about it in the new year. To protect existing trees, pruning or trimming should only occur in the dormant season, after mid-to-late October to reduce the spread of oak wilt disease. A second way to protect existing trees is to avoid negative impacts to their root system, including soil compaction, top soil addition and digging too close to the tree.

Lastly, consider selective cutting of trees that are growing below and into the canopy of an existing oak, reducing competition for light, water and nutrients. Oak release is encouraged within The Territory, either on your own lot or within the Greenspace, through the Greenspace Stewardship Program.
Originally appeared in the Territory Times October 2020
We have been in a droughty period for about four weeks and it got me thinking about how to properly care for our yards going into the winter. Annuals and perennials typically fare better during droughty periods, perhaps because they show symptoms of drought more quickly than our trees and shrubs and we respond to those signs more quickly. Wilted leaves and stems perk up shortly after being watered, so we observe immediate impacts of drought stress and relief. Our woody plants are also impacted by drought, but symptoms aren’t obvious until they are really stressed. Short term drought damage includes wilting, leaf scorch and defoliation. This is what we are experiencing as of early September, since our dry conditions have been going on for about a month. Long-term droughts, like what we experienced in 2012, can cause stunted growth, branch die-back and mortality, even in mature trees. It can take three to five years for trees to die from drought stress. Secondary problems arise when a tree is stressed, such as infestations by wood borers and bark beetles or infections of pathogens. Typically, a healthy tree or shrub can defend itself from insects and disease, but if stressed by other factors (drought, age), it can be colonized readily.

HELP PLANTS WITHSTAND A DROUGHT
The first consideration is plant selection, to choose the right plant for your location and conditions. If you’re not in the planning phase, but dealing with plants already in the ground, make sure they are growing in optimal conditions. Ideally, trees and shrubs should be surrounded by a mulch ring. Mulch helps hold moisture in the ground and as it breaks down, adds organic material to the soil around the tree. On the other hand, turf grass competes with the tree for moisture and increases the chance of the trunk being nicked by a lawnmower or trimmer. Trees and shrubs should also be watered during a drought. Because of their sizable root systems, they should be watered deeply, but infrequently. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses and useful for this, but you can also use a sprinkler with the hose turned on low. For larger trees, this will take some time as the sprinkler should be moved around to adequately water the fine feeder roots, which can extend beyond the canopy. Ideally, trees should receive one to 2 inches of water per week. This can be measured with a rain gauge or collecting water in a coffee can or similar. Prioritize what you water to trees and shrubs that have been in the ground five or less years. If it stays dry, deciduous and evergreen trees should be watered until the ground begins to freeze, typically in early November.
Originally appeared in the Territory Times September 2020
The shape, flowers and leaf colors of trees add beauty to our landscapes. They also help provide privacy and valuable shade to help cool our homes and make spending time in the yard more enjoyable. Like any other living thing, trees have a life span. Sometimes its many hundreds of years, like oak trees. Others species are short-lived and any tree can have its life span shortened by pests, disease, injury or decay.

WHAT HAPPENS TO A TREE AFTER IT DIES?
The tree’s wood becomes dry because the flow of water and nutrients has stopped. As the conductive tissues dry out and become brittle, there is less structural integrity and limbs are susceptible to breakage. Look for holes in limbs and cracks or fissures in the bark or wood. It is also possible for the entire dead tree to fail at or below the ground. Also, look for loose dirt at the base or a tree leaning at a new angle, especially if the tree was already growing at an awkward angle. 

FALLEN LIMBS POSE PLUSES AND PROBLEMS
All dead trees will lose limbs and eventually fail. In the woods, fallen limbs provide valuable cavities and habitat for wildlife. It is much safer when dead trees are left in the woods versus in your lawn or near structures. Falling limbs can cause property damage if the limb lands on a structure or vehicle. They can also be fatal if the limb lands on a person or pet. Property damage from dead trees can also affect a neighbor’s property. Besides the danger factor from falling limbs, dead trees can attract pests, such as carpenter ants, termites and wood borers. These pests can also take advantage of weak or rotting wood in homes and other structures, compounding the problem.

TERRITORY SEES INCREASE OF DEAD ASH TREES
The last couple of years in The Territory, the number of dead ash trees has increased dramatically due to mortality from the emerald ash borer (EAB). Ash trees that died due to an infestation of EAB are problematic because they become brittle and are prone to breakage more quickly than “normal” dead ash trees or other species. Ash trees have a thinner ring of conductive tissue (xylem and phloem) below their bark than other species of trees. The EAB larvae lives and feeds on the conductive tissue of the trees. This damage cuts off the flow of water and nutrients, causing the tree to desiccate sooner and more quickly. The damage from feeding also leads to internal breaks in the structural wood that bears the weight of limbs. Unpredictable structural failures often result. Limbs can break and fall at any point along the branch and trunk failures typically occur less than 24 inches above grade.

REMOVE TREES THAT THREATEN SAFETY OR DAMAGE
The Galena Territory Association encourages you to remove dead trees that potentially threaten the safety of property owners and their property. Dead trees in the woods should be left as habitat for native wildlife where possible. Per our rules and regulations, dead trees larger than 4 inches in diameter need to be approved before removal.
Originally appeared in the Territory Times August 2020
The advance of summer brings sightings of large, showy bags of webbing in trees and shrubs. Fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) build nests of silk webbing on branch tips. I often get calls about these from mid-August to September, when nests can expand between 2 and 3 feet across.

Fall webworms are generalists that feed on more than 90 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, but prefer mulberry, hickory, elm, oak, and fruit trees. The adult moths, which are snowy white with or without black dots, emerge from overwintered pupae between late June and early July and deposit egg masses on the underside of leaves. Once hatched, the caterpillars congregate and form silky webs around the colony.

The webbed nest may contain hundreds of larvae and expands as the caterpillars grow, enveloping more leaves the larger it becomes. The caterpillars typically feed for about six weeks before leaving the nest to pupate. If the webbing is white, it’s an active nest. The nest will turn tan and persist in the branches until a heavy rain, wind, or wet snow pulls it down.

As the webbing grows, it becomes more obvious and unsightly. Luckily, that’s the biggest problem – the aesthetics. Fall webworms feed on leaves as they approach their seasonal maturity, so their presence does not harm the tree. They don’t feed on newly formed leaf buds, just mature leaves and the impact from this defoliation is minor. Therefore, once the nest disappears, the tree shows no signs of damage the next growing season. In most cases, especially in our wooded areas, no action is needed to remove the webbing.

If there is an ornamental tree or shrub or a young tree in your landscape that has a web you would like to remove it, there are two options. One, you can either push a stick into the webbing, gathering as much of the nest and the larvae as you can, or prune the affected branch(es) off the tree. Destroy the webbing and larvae by placing it in a bucket of soapy water for 24 hours, burning it or burying it. Before pruning a branch out of a tree or shrub, consider the aesthetic impact of that action as well.

Fall webworms have natural predators, as more than 75 species of birds, mammals and insects, including yellow jackets and wheel bugs, prey on the caterpillars. They are also attacked by parasitoids, which are insects that use the caterpillars as hosts for their own developing larvae. Therefore, they are a beneficial food source for our native wildlife. The webbed nests are a sign of the passing of the season, not a cause for alarm.
Originally appeared in the Territory Times July 2020
Be careful around wild parsnip
This is a reminder to all property owners to be careful if working in your yards around wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) or thinking about adding it to a bouquet. If the sap contacts your skin in the presence of sunlight, it causes a chemical reaction that creates burns and blisters. This is called a phytophotodermic (plant + light + skin) reaction. For some people this makes the skin very tender. For others, it leaves purple scars that will darken to a brown color and last for several years before fading.

If you are trying to remove this plant or if you might come into contact with it while doing other yard work, please wear shoes and socks, long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and gloves. I know this sounds hot for the middle of summer, but it’s best to protect your skin from the sap.

Herbicide may be applied to the plant in its vegetative state only. Wild parsnip bolts and flowers from mid-June through August. Once the plant flowers, the energy stored in its taproot is used to complete its life cycle, or produce seed. Therefore, it is not actively bringing in and storing energy in its roots and will not transport the chemical into the root where it affects a kill.

The best method for removal after wild parsnip has flowered, is to cut the root an inch or more below the soil surface with a sharp spade or shovel and then remove the cut plant to shrivel and die. This method doesn’t damage the stem or leaves, but reduces the chance of the sap contacting your skin. The Prairie Enthusiasts offers specialized “Parsnip Predators” for sale. It’s actually a handy tool for all kinds of weeding, such as Queen Anne’s Lace, tap-rooted thistles, and more. Please view their website to find out how to get one: www.theprairieenthusiasts.org then click on eStore.

Another method for control of large-scale patches is timed mowing. The Galena Territory Association has done this in several areas and has greatly reduced the amount of plants. Mowing should be done when most of the stand is in full-flower or just as seed formation begins. Typically, the 4th of July is about the window for that.
Originally appeared in the Territory Times February 2021
Historically, our rolling hills were covered by widely spaced oak trees, complemented occasionally by shagbark hickory, black cherry and elm. The understory included flowering shrubs and small trees, providing vertical heterogeneity for the songbird community. The woodland floor was covered by a rich herbaceous layer that protected the soil from erosion.

Currently, through a process known as mesophication, openings between widely-spaced mature oaks have been filled by shade-tolerant species, such as ash, hackberry, basswood and maple. Seedlings of these species can grow and mature in low light conditions; however, those conditions prevent oak and hickory trees from maturing due to having greater light requirements.

Our woodland structure is shifting toward a densely shaded closed canopy condition. This changes understory vegetation: Shrubs are pushed to the edges, where they can meet light requirements for flower and fruit production. Herbaceous species diversity decreases to those that can handle low-light and grows sparsely. With these changes, there is less food available to foraging insects and animals and an increased chance for erosion.

Woodland management goals were established by the Greenspace Committee in 2013. The primary focus of these goals is to improve the health of the woodlands through selective tree removal, invasive species control, and prescribed fire. In turn, this will preserve and promote floral and faunal species diversity, another goal. A couple of woodland management projects have gone forward so far: Bartoli Woods, southeast of the intersection of Territory Drive and Wachter Road and “Stand 1” of the Stony Ridge Woods. Other sites are being managed as well, including the Owners’ Club Woods, Cameron Savanna, and The Point.

The effort will continue this winter in the Stony Ridge Woods. One location for the work is southwest of the trail between the Stony Point cul de sac and the lookout platforms, “Stand 2.” This area is dominated by white oaks, with some red and bur oaks present. It is undergoing mesophication by basswood, hackberry and bitternut hickory and work will focus on reducing the amount of these species. The trail between the base and the top of the ridge runs through this section of the woods and will be temporarily closed during the work. Please heed the “trail closed” and “tree work ahead” signs.

A second area in the Stony Ridge Woods (Stand 3) is between the top of the ridge and Territory Drive, northeast of the trail from the cul de sac. This area is dominated by red oaks and basswood, but is being encroached by sugar maple and the work will focus on the maples and creating canopy gaps. Lastly, we will be doing follow up work in Bartoli Woods, which is six years out from initial management efforts.

Woodland management is a long-term endeavor and can take decades before significant oak regeneration is obvious. But it’s crucial to do this work to retain our oak woodlands for future generations of flora and fauna—and for my great grandkids.