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No fines for women who planted in forest preserve

Friday, September 10, 2010
by Jennifer Delgado

Two women who spruced up a section of the forest preserve in Des Plaines will not be fined, Cook County forest preserve officials said.

Someone will go out and check the area for non-native species, but it’s unknown when, said Steve Mayberry, spokesman for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

“We’re not interested in ticketing them,” Mayberry said.

The news came as a big relief to the women, who spent the last 15 years cleaning up and planting natural species in the woods beside their condos.

Irma Lehmann and Peggy Losik said they stopped in May when a neighbor said they faced encroachment fines because she reported them.

“We can’t do it anymore,” said Lehmann. “Whatever we did will be gone…that’s a shame.”

Since then, they said inspectors have surveyed the area, which is now covered in weeds. Besides planting, Losik and Lehmann disposed of the garlic mustard and poison ivy that choked out plants, and built a small bench made of stones they dug from the ground.

Lehmann and Losik, both avid gardeners, said neighbors enjoyed the area that once was littered with tires, bottles, and bicycles.

Both women said they are still unsure of the exact boundaries that divide the preserve and the city. Although they won’t touch the small parcel they once tended, the duo said they hope the forest preserve will contact them if it wants to throw out a plant deemed as non-native.

“(Throwing out a plant) would hurt me,” Lehmann said. “We could find another home for it. When you nurture something and build it from dirt, you’re attached to it.”

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