August 11, 2023 at 11:48am

Elena Ferrarin

Article by Elena Ferrarin

Communications Coordinator
Northbrook Park District


The Northbrook Park District is the first park district in Illinois whose parks have earned the certification of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, a distinction conferred to organizations that demonstrate environmental achievements and leadership.

Techny Prairie Park and Fields and Wood Oaks Green Park met the rigorous standards required for the certification by Audubon International. These two parks are among only three locations in Illinois to meet this standard. The third location is Cantigny Park in Wheaton, which is funded by the nonprofit Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Across the entire United States only 27 non-golf course locations have earned this prestigious designation.

This accomplishment is yet another example of the park district’s commitment to the continual pursuit of excellence as we work for the benefit of the residents, Park District Executive Director Molly Hamer said. Heritage Oaks Golf Club earned the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf certification in 2015, with recertification achieved in 2022, and is among 713 golf courses on that list across the country.

“Our vision statement speaks to being a national leader in parks and recreation. This mark has once again been achieved due to the expertise and passion of our committed staff,” Hamer said. “For years, we have been proud of our Audubon status at Heritage Oaks. Audubon International’s strict certification process ensures that the district meets criteria for protecting wildlife habitats, improving energy efficiency, reducing chemical usage and promoting environmental education. It is rewarding to work side by side with our talented team in the parks division, who are leaders in their industry and who look to the future as they care for the community’s park land.”

“This remarkable achievement showcases the district’s unwavering commitment to not only meeting, but exceeding, national standards for the ecological management of public lands,” said Director of Parks and Properties Chris Leiner. “With Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program status as a symbol of our dedication, we continue to invest wholeheartedly in preserving and enhancing our precious natural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.”

Being certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program requires developing and implementing a deliberate environmental management plan and carefully documenting its results.

Key components of the plan include promotion of biodiversity through native plantings and bird-friendly environments; water and energy conservation, as well as waste reduction; environmental education for staff, members and visitors; wildlife and habitat assessment to guide conservation efforts; chemical use reduction, including the use of organic or low-impact alternatives; and community engagement through volunteer activities and collaboration.

Created with a focus on environmental resource management and natural plant selection, Techny Prairie Park and Fields was the perfect case study to submit for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program certification, Superintendent of Grounds and Golf Maintenance Bill Meyer said. For example, the park’s pond is used as an irrigation reservoir for Anetsberger Golf Course and the Techny Prairie natural turf ballfields and has a system that employs a rain shut-off sensor.

At Wood Oaks Green Park, the park district engaged in a two-year shoreline restoration project which included a substantial increase in native plantings, which now represent 90% of the park’s flora, creating additional buffer zones to limit erosion, Meyer said.

The two-year certification process was capped by an in-person site audit from Audubon International, which verified the park district met all standards for excellence.

Earning the certification is a testament to the park district’s commitment to the thoughtful management of its properties, Meyer said. “It’s great to earn that recognition,” he said. “I don’t think most people realize what we put into maintaining our parks. We are always thinking about the native habitat and the quality of the water in the ponds.”

Leiner echoed that. “Our dedicated team responsible for managing these lands takes great pride in this accomplishment, demonstrating our strong commitment to environmental excellence,” he said