Harvey-Gensburg Markham Prairie
The Gensburg-Markham Prairie, commonly known as Markham Prairie, is a 105.6-acre high-quality tallgrass prairie near Markham, Illinois (Harvey, IL). It is a component of the broader Indian Boundary Prairies, which are administered jointly by Northeastern Illinois University and The Nature Conservancy. It is a National Natural Landmark, described by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as “an rare example of sandy loam prairie.” The municipality of Markham, Illinois, a suburb located south of Chicago, seized most of the prairie region. This form of immigration was a foundation to real estate development in Illinois. The grassland patch’s significantly poorer drainage, on the other hand, makes it less appealing for land development. Furthermore, Markham became an economically unstable and very slow-growing community in the years following World War II. Finally, the Gensburg family, proprietors of a vital 60-acre piece in the middle of the grassland, donated it to Northeastern Illinois University in 1971. This gift is honored by the prairie’s present name, Gensburg-Markham Prairie.The Gensburg-Markham Prairie may be traced back to the Wisconsin glacier, when post glacial Lake Chicago deposited a huge sand beach in what would eventually become southern Cook County. The poorly drained, wet, sandy soil made farming difficult, and early settlers left areas of tallgrass prairie grasses and forbs alone. The Gensburg-Markham Prairie had been severely deteriorated by invading alien species at the time of gifting in 1971. Decades of prairie restoration effort, coordinated by Northeastern Illinois University’s Robert Betz, have cleared away part of the undergrowth, allowing most of the original prairie’s tallgrass species to re-establish itself. Controlled burns have been crucial in this study. In September 1980, the prairie was designated as an Illinois Nature Preserve. More than 100 acres of high-quality tallgrass prairie have been identified within the broader grassland. Northeastern Illinois University owns the grassland, with the Nature Conservancy owning a few minor parcels. The preserve is managed by Northeastern Illinois University.The Henslow’s sparrow, a typical tallgrass prairie species, has been spotted on the prairie.
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