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by Bernice Popelka
November 3, 2012

Bernice Popelka grew up in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Family and friends shared with her love and respect for the natural world. In 1956, she and her husband moved to the Chicago area. She later discovered the Peacock Prairie in Glenview and learned the prairie was threatened with development. She organized a grassroots campaign and led a group of citizens between 1965 and 1966 to preserve Peacock Prairie. Bernice was also involved in saving Wolf Road Prairie in the beginning days.

The beauty, variety and complex interactions among life forms of the natural world have fascinated Bernice all her life.

In 2011, Bernice published her book "Saving Peacock Prairie", a chronicle of her efforts to convince conservation leaders during the 1960's to acquire and preserve this rare remnant of a tall-grass, black soil prairie in the Chicago area. Today, Peacock Prairie is known as the James Woodworth Prairie and is being preserved and managed by the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Bernice shared her story with our group, along with a power point presentation highlighting the prairie. She inspired us with the obstacles she encountered and overcame to save the prairie.

"The protection of rare natural areas always seems to teeter on the brink and must fall into the lap and become the focus of the love and attention of rare individuals to be successful. The engaging and well-written story tells of this convergence and success at protecting a very special place." Steven I. Apfelbaum

Bernice's fast paced and easy to read book also includes a list of prairie species found at the James Woodworth Prairie and an array of beautiful photographs of native plants known to the preserve.

You can learn more about how the prairie was saved and who the players were championing this project which was to become one of the earliest prairie conservation victories in the Chicago area. Saving prairies during this period was in its infancy.

To obtain your copy of "Saving Peacock Prairie" and experience what determined citizens can accomplish to save our natural heritage, you can order online by going to

Event photo by Valerie Spale

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