Restoration on the 9.6-acre Edwards Savanna and Gravel Hill Prairie sites was initiated in 1998 on what had been agricultural land abandoned in the late 1970’s. For the first ten years, invading non-oak species of trees and shrubs were removed and the site periodically mowed to maintain the steep slopes in protective herbaceous ground cover. Scattered young black oak trees were left growing on the site in order to provide partially shaded savanna conditions in the future.
The Gravel Hill Prairie, located on the eastern edge of a gentle, south-facing slope, is underlain by well-drained gravel. This forms the base of a steeper glacial kame that underlays the adjacent Edwards Kame Woodland.
In 2008 a grove of dense black oak trees on the west edge was thinned in order to release scattered larger-crowned black oak, and provide sunlight to a future herbaceous ground layer of native species. During the late summer of 2014, the herbaceous cover was mowed. During the summer of 2015, it was treated with two applications of herbicide. The herbaceous vegetation control was funded by the IDNR Div. of Fish and Wildlife’s Game Bird Habitat Development Program.
Herbicide was again broadcast on the site in 2016, and again in April 2017 before planting native prairie and partially shade-tolerant savanna species in May 2017. Dry prairie species were planted on the Gravel Hill Prairie site. Oats were included as a short-lived nurse crop that occupies space that would otherwise be invaded by weeds. The site was high-mowed twice during the 2017 growing season to control the growth and reseeding of annual weeds that became established after planting. Firebreaks, to divide the site into three burn units, were installed in August 2017 by planting orchard grass, timothy and ladino clover.