Supporters gather at Olmsted Overlook.

The Village of Riverside is an oasis amid the grid of streetscapes in the urban Chicago area. The public green spaces of the Village created by the intersection of curving streets are integral to Frederick Law Olmsted’s design. These triangles are a hallmark of the Village, offering pleasant views to drivers and pedestrians. Maintaining and continuing to improve the public green areas is possible thanks to significant efforts from the Frederick Law Olmsted Society of Riverside (FLOS), the Village, and numerous volunteers. Two projects completed in 2022 offer an example of the collaboration that makes Riverside, Illinois, a great place to live. 

When Riverside resident and Girl Scout Lauren Sanduski needed a project for her Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts, she started working with the Village’s Landscape Advisory Commission to find an assignment to help beautify the Village. The Commission tasked Lauren with improving Triangle 55, located at Northgate and Bartram Roads, one of the main routes into town.

Last fall, Lauren removed invasive species and some taller natives that were creating sightline issues for traffic flow and pedestrian and bicycle traffic. A FLOS member and Riverside resident, Carolyn Huson, donated understory plants, three spicebushes, and two Ironwood trees to balance the American Beech, Hophornbeam, Sassafras, and Hackberry that are currently part of the triangle’s native specimens. Lauren tagged these larger specimen trees with their botanical and common names. Other native plants at the triangle, planted by past volunteers, include Jacob’s Ladder, Mayapples, Red Trillium, Columbine, and Spring Beauties.

Volunteers completed another clean-up in the Spring of 2022 before 500 natives were planted, mulched, and watered. The plants include Rose Sedge, Pennsylvania Sedge, Hairy Beardtongue, Blue Stemmed Goldenrod, and Celandine Poppies. The plant material was selected to survive without further watering after the first year of being planted.

FLOS donated $250 towards the triangle improvements. The donation covered the cost of some of the plants and encouraged others to support this project.

In April of this year, a group of FLOS members and friends planted a tree grove overlooking the Des Plaines River on the west side of Swan Pond bluff. Dubbed the “Olmsted Overlook,” the grove commemorated the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted. (Read more about the grove here.) 

The Olmsted Overlook features native trees, consistent with Riverside’s focus as a certified arboretum. Local landscape architect Shawn Sinn designed the plot, and landscape contractor Tom Lupfer provided work crews to help move the trees and dig holes.

The volunteer efforts continued this summer and will continue the next two growing seasons as team members water the newly-planted trees. The Village of Riverside honored FLOS with a park bench, positioned under the shade of the new trees and offering a beautiful view.

These two projects are lasting, living legacies that support a native ecosystem and will grace our Village for decades to come.

Amy Downing is the Communications, Marketing & Event Specialist for the Village of Riverside. FLOS, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining Olmsted’s vision for Riverside for generations to come, is a member of the NAOP Olmsted Network.