Archive for the ‘Citizens for Conservation’ Category


Front to back: Robert McGinley, Dan Lobbes, Renae Frigo and David Holman head back after checking the status of a former dam on Goose Lake in Horizon Farm preserve on Aug. 18, 2023, in Barrington Hills. Members of the Barrington Area Conservation Trust and The Conservation Foundation were out surveying Horizon Farm as part of an annual effort to track changes on the property. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)

On a group tour of Horizon Farm Forest Preserve and its rolling pastures, a visitor joked that it would make a great par 3 golf course. Nature lovers shuddered at the thought, though such a use is prohibited on the site.

But the comment illustrates the tension the Forest Preserve District of Cook County faces balancing preservation and recreation. The district’s main mission is to preserve open space, and provide “nature-compatible” recreation.

In the case of Horizon Farm in northwest suburban Barrington Hills, the issue boils down to whether to save a half-mile horse racing track. The nearly 400-acre preserve used to be a horse breeding and training ground. The track was used to train thoroughbreds for racing at the now-closed Arlington International Racecourse.

When the forest preserve district bought Horizon Farm out of foreclosure for $14.5 million in 2013, officials expressed openness to keeping equestrian uses of the site. But 10 years later, the racetrack sits filled with wild plants, unused, its railing falling apart. A big chunk of the preserve remains closed, and some trails are overgrown. Horse lovers and other preserve users are wondering whether the district will save the track.

“It’s really a prize,” Barrington Hills Park District President Dennis Kelly said. “There’s been a lot of interest in the equestrian community, but we have not gotten a response.”

Not everyone is married to the idea of a horse track. Friends of the Forest Preserves, an independent nonprofit, takes the general position that recreation in the forest preserves — from boating to fishing to camping — should facilitate enjoyment of nature.

“As soon as recreation becomes about the activity, that is not in line with what should be done with the forest preserves,” Friends President Benjamin Cox said.

The group supports horse trails since anyone can use them, but has not taken a position specifically on the horse track. Exclusive sites such as a golf course or baseball diamond are only for those uses, so Friends would prefer not to build those in the preserves.

Read more here.

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Beth Botts

Winter, when the branches of dormant trees are bare, is a good time to have them pruned. Oaks should only be pruned when they are dormant. (Beth Botts)

By Beth Botts
Morton Arboretum

The gray, still days of winter are the perfect time to prune trees. In fact, winter is the only recommended time to prune some species, such as oaks.

“If you prune oaks during the growing season, you risk spreading serious diseases,” said Sharon Yiesla, plant knowledge specialist at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. One of the worst is a fungal disease called oak wilt.

The oak wilt fungus is spread by a beetle that is attracted to open pruning wounds in trees and carries the spores from tree to tree. Since the beetles aren’t active in winter, the safe period for pruning an oak is between Oct. 15 and April 15, Yiesla said.

Oak wilt is difficult or impossible to treat, she said, so the best way to fight it is to prevent it. The most important thing a homeowner can do to protect an oak is to prune it only in winter, unless it has been damaged by a storm.

Winter is also the best time to prune other trees, when they are dormant and not actively growing, Yiesla said. As with oak wilt, the cold will reduce the likelihood of spreading other pests and diseases.

The bare branches also make it easier for a trained arborist to see the tree’s structure and check its health. And if the ground is frozen when trees are pruned, surrounding perennial beds and other garden areas won’t be damaged by professionals’ equipment.

Large, mature trees should be pruned by certified professionals. “A certified arborist has the training and equipment to do it safely,” Yiesla said. You can find a certified arborist through the website of the International Society of Arboriculture (treesaregood.org/findanarborist) or the Illinois Arborist Association (illinoisarborist.org).

Prune a tree yourself only if you can do it with your feet on the ground. Working above the ground to prune tree branches that may weigh hundreds of pounds requires the special safety training and equipment that professional firms have. “It’s easy to get seriously hurt pruning trees,” Yiesla said.

“Always err on the side of hiring a professional and keeping yourself safe.”

It’s a good idea to have large, mature, valuable trees inspected every few years, to catch any problems early. “That’s a good thing to do in winter too,” she said.

For tree and plant advice, contact the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum (630-719-2424, mortonarb.org/plant-clinic, or plantclinic@mortonarb.org). Beth Botts is a staff writer at the Arboretum.

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The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, long-maligned by a reputation for mismanagement and politically motivated hiring, is taking a gamble on the November ballot: It’s asking voters to hike their own property taxes to give the district an annual budget boost of $40 million.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her hand-picked Superintendent Arnold Randall unveiled a revamp of the district in 2014, but a tax hike was deemed a political non-starter after decades of damaging headlines. Most focused on sweeping patronage accusations (later curbed by court monitoring), but also neglect and financial mismanagement as well as smaller-scale scandals, such as an aquatic center where workers pocketed payments and gave minors alcohol.

A referendum question for voters across the county will ask their permission for a 0.025% increase above the current state-mandated Property Tax Extension Limitation Law cap for the district, bringing the limit to 0.076%.

What does it mean for your bill? Right now, the owner of a median-priced home pays $36 to $47 in property taxes per year to the district. If the referendum passes, the increase for an average homeowner would be less than $20 a year, or about $1.50 per month, according to the district.

The revenues are not yet earmarked, but FPDCC Chief Financial Officer Stephen Hughes told the Tribune its current plans are to spend roughly $7.3 million to buy more property, $6 million for facility maintenance, $6.3 million for land restoration and $9.7 million for pension payments. The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe and Brookfield Zoo, which both stand on FPDCC land, would get $2.4 million and $4 million, respectively, for capital maintenance.

Even the often tax-averse Civic Federation is in support of a “yes” vote on the referendum. President Laurence Msall is among advocates who argue the district has earned the right to ask for the extra cash after cleaning up its act. A right-sized workforce, cuts in expenditures and improvements in planning are all signs of improved management and oversight.

“But important to this referendum is that the Forest Preserves has a reasonable plan that has been vetted” by outside groups, Msall said.

More here.

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The Barrington Hills Park District Board will hold their regular monthly meeting this evening in person and via Zoom at 7:00 PM. Topics on their agenda include:

  • McGinley trail update
  • Truth in Taxation Ordinance
  • Video Security Cameras – IAPD Grant

A copy of their agenda can be viewed here. Instructions for accessing the meeting remotely can be found here.

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Ignite the Night!

Santa’s Village Spooktacular Drive-Thru: 6-9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Oct. 7-9 and 14-16, and 5:30-9 p.m. Oct. 21-23 and 27-31, at Santa’s Village, 601 Dundee Ave., East Dundee. Drive-through Halloween scenes featuring The Witches Broom Lot, Mad Scientist, Alien Landing, Monster Mash Bash and more. $25 per vehicle in advance, $30 at the gate. SantasVillageDundee.com.

Fall Fest at Brothers’ Field: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Brothers’ Field, 344 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove. Live music, pumpkin painting, kids’ crafts, tractor rides, food truck, cotton candy, Do-It-Yourself Scarecrow Day and more. brothersfieldlonggrove.com.

Scarecrow Day: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Brothers’ Field, 344 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove. Build a custom scarecrow to be displayed in town for the rest of October Days. A small registration fee per scarecrow includes a wood base, hay for stuffing and building guidance from a team of volunteers. Register in advance through LongGrove.org.

Ghost Story Train: 5 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 8, 15 and 22, at the Fox River Trolley Museum, off Route 31, South Elgin. Ride a spooky trolley down to the haunted forest for an evening of family-friendly frights. Listen to spooky stories around the campfire with treats from Margie’s Girls’ Kitchen and join in as a musician leads campfire songs. Costumes are welcome. Departures at 5, 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. $20. foxtrolley.org/Ghost-Story-Train.

Ignite the Night!: 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Barrington Hills Park District/Riding Center, 361 Bateman Road, Barrington Hills. A nighttime fall festival featuring a cookout from 5-8 p.m., beer and wine, a bonfire, bluegrass music from Anderlik and Church, narrated horse-drawn wagon rides, stargazing, flashlight tours for kids and dancing. $60 in advance, $75 at the event, $40 for ages 10-20, $15 for kids 9 and younger. Benefits Citizens for Conservation. For tickets, see CitizensForConservation.org/ignite-the-night.

Click here to find more.

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A cookout dinner, bear and wine, a gigantic bonfire and more Saturday at the 51st Annual Ignite the Night!

Ignite the Night! — a nighttime fall festival with fun for all ages to benefit Citizens for Conservation

Celebrate autumn, connect with family, friends and neighbors at an outdoors moonlight festival with music by Anderlik and Church, an acoustic bluegrass band.

Enjoy a cookout dinner, beer and wine, narrated horse-drawn wagon rides around a restoration site, stargazing with powerful telescopes, birds of prey, a raffle, flashlight tours for kids, with live music and dancing in the grass. The evening is capped off by an amazing blazing bonfire.

Mindful Waste, an organization created and led by two local environmentalists/ conservationists/teachers, will once again be working with us to help make Ignite the Night a zero-waste event.

Proceeds benefit Citizens for Conservation’s 51-year mission of protecting and restoring land.

To purchase tickets or for more information, click here.


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Protecting open space has always been a quality-of-life issue in the suburbs and the collar counties, a goal under constant pressure from the relentless spread of commercial and residential development.

So, when an opportunity appears to ensure that a large tract is preserved and managed, it is something to be seized and once seized, appreciated. This time, the gratitude goes to the Barrington-based volunteer group Citizens for Conservation.

The group and the Richard Duchossois family announced last week the purchase of the family’s 246.5-acre Hill ‘N Dale Farm South, making it the 14th preserve in Lake, Cook and McHenry counties under Citizens for Conservation’s care.

“We’re going to build a beautiful, complex web of Illinois’ native life here at this preserve,” Jim Vanderpoel, a member of the Citizens for Conservation board, says in a video the group produced on the project.

In reflecting on the family’s goals in selling the site to the conservation group, Kim Duchossois, daughter of the late Arlington Park Chairman Richard Duchossois, discussed how “important this land is to the community,” but it’s worth adding that the preservation’s impact will extend well beyond the Barrington area.

Situated just across Lake-Cook Road from the 4,000-acre Spring Creek Valley Forest Preserve, the addition will expand an important wildlife corridor, providing habitat for native plant and aquatic life, grassland birds and endangered species, such as monarch butterflies and rusty-patched bumblebees.

It will protect the equivalent of three-quarters of a mile along Spring Creek, which feeds into the Fox River, and strengthen initiatives for greenways, watersheds and green infrastructure in three counties. It will be open to public access through programs to be managed by the conservation group. It will have an impact on the environment for all of northern Illinois.

Read the full Daily Herald editorial here.

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Plant native trees and shrubs to help create bird, pollinator, and wildlife habitat. CFC’s 25th annual Fall Native Tree & Shrub Sale is here! Online ordering is available throughout September.

For details, click here.

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[BARRINGTON, IL – August 29, 2022]  – Barrington-based Citizens for Conservation and The Duchossois Group are pleased to announce today that long-term conservation protection has been provided for the 246.5-acre Hill ‘N Dale Farm South property. CFC has acquired the parcel from The Duchossois Group; it is located in unincorporated McHenry County and surrounded by Barrington Hills, bounded on the north by Spring Creek Road, on the east by Ridge Road, on the South by Lake-Cook/County Line Road, and on the west by residents along Meadow Hill Road.

This previously privately owned land in the Spring Creek watershed corridor is considered one of the most desirable conservation-worthy properties not only in the Barrington area, but in the entire Northern Illinois region. The purchase increases CFC’s owned and protected land to 777 acres in Lake, Cook, and McHenry Counties and will be the organization’s 14th and largest preserve.

The 246.5-acre site will be named Hill ‘N Dale Preserve and encompasses 4,060 linear feet of the high-quality Spring Creek, a tributary to the Fox River. The preserve honors the current name of the Duchossois property and reflects the protection of the surrounding upland bluffs (Hill) and the Spring Creek valley (Dale). The land is identified as a priority for protection and restoration in multiple local and regional plans, including the Barrington Greenway Initiative, the Spring Creek Watershed-Based Plan, and McHenry and Lake County Green Infrastructure Plans. It will provide green space connectivity to numerous other protected lands in our area, including the 4,000-acre Spring Lake (Spring Creek) Forest Preserve and the 550-acre state dedicated Spring Lake Nature Preserve.

The purchase will permanently protect the land as open space and improve and protect this sensitive watershed area, which is highly significant to area aquifer recharge. In addition, this acquisition will provide for a critical wildlife corridor connecting to the 4,000-acre Spring Creek Forest Preserve. Restoration of the landscape’s natural ecosystem will provide important habitat for native plant and aquatic communities, grassland birds (such as Bobolink, Bittern, and Henslow’s sparrows), and wildlife that originally occupied this land, including endangered species such as monarch butterflies and rusty-patched bumblebees.

Citizens for Conservation (CFC), a volunteer-based organization with a 50-year history in the Barrington area, stepped forward to save this land as part of their strategic focus on protection and restoration of impactful watershed and greenway areas. CFC has been a leader on these initiatives, which are vital for the ecological health of the region. Nationally, this acquisition also aligns with the federal “America the Beautiful 30 by 30 Plan,” which is the federal government’s goal to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and freshwater and 30 percent of U.S. ocean areas by 2030. This initiative seeks to reverse the negative impacts of biodiversity decline and climate change by protecting more natural areas, and to increase access to nature for communities that lack it. The Hill ‘N Dale Preserve will locally contribute significantly to this national effort, as well as to the recently announced Land Trust Alliance Gaining Ground initiative. Both these efforts were envisioned when Citizens for Conservation rolled out the Barrington Greenway Initiative.

“This property’s high conservation value, coupled with CFC’s strong history of delivering quality restoration results, will have far-reaching impacts for the entire Barrington-area community, as well as the entire Northern Illinois region,” said Kathleen Leitner, CFC’s Board President. “We could not be more pleased to have partnered with The Duchossois Group and Kim Duchossois to facilitate this acquisition of the south part of their family’s iconic farm near Barrington Hills. We believe that our local communities and regional partners will be ecstatic to hear that CFC has been able to permanently protect this vital open space.”

Kim Duchossois agreed. “My family and I could not be more thrilled to have worked so closely with Citizens for Conservation over the past year to facilitate their purchase of the south part of Hill ‘N Dale Farm. We know how important this land is to the community, and it was absolutely critical for our entire family to make certain that the property would be protected and maintained as open space. The key to our decision to sell to CFC was the organization’s long history in the area and its promise not only to preserve the property, but also to restore it over time and return it to its natural splendor. I’m also very pleased that the Barrington-area members of our family will be contributing a significant portion of their proceeds of the sale back to the CFC campaign to protect this land in perpetuity.”

Initial funding for the purchase came in the form of a $4.9 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the largest such grant awarded for a single parcel purchase. This substantial award demonstrates the significant conservation value of this important property. CFC is seeking an additional $5 million in funding to supplement the purchase of the land, conduct ecological restoration, and manage the site for public enjoyment in the future.

Initial site evaluation (partially funded by an ICECF Advancing Wetland Conservation grant) is now being conducted to create multi-year ecological management plans for the property. The open space restoration will bring back native communities and species; provide new opportunities for school children and volunteers to engage with nature; provide increased surface water infiltration; enhance the quality of local groundwater; and increase wetlands, all while protecting one of the most pristine streams in Northern Illinois (Spring Creek).

Future public access to the preserve will be provided through CFC-sponsored activities. No horses remain on the property, but the possibility of horse trails will be evaluated during the preserve planning process. CFC has pledged to maintain the iconic white exterior fences that currently exist on the land.

Kathleen Leitner said, “This incredibly important acquisition is fulfilling CFC’s mission of ‘Saving Living Space for Living Things’ through protection, restoration and stewardship of land, conservation of natural resources, and education. Our organization’s history of dedicated supporters, volunteers, and community support has made this acquisition possible, and we intend to steward this land in perpetuity for the future of our entire community. We thank all who have been involved for their efforts.”

Video Highlights of New Preserve

Restoration Concept Map

Q&A Information

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Track spring migration with Barrington naturalists Wendy Paulson, Barb Karon and Laura Simpson
Walks are free and open to the public. But spaces are limited and REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED.
Bring binoculars (and insect repellent if desired) and dress for the weather.

  • Aug 26, 7:30 a.m. — Horizon Farm (Old Sutton Road, north of HWY 62 /Algonquin Road)
  • Sept 9, 7:30 a.m. — Crabtree Nature Center (3 Stover Road off of Palatine Road)
  • Sept 16, 8:00 a.m. — Beverly Lake* (North side of Higgins Rd/Rt. 72, East of Healy Rd)3 Stover Road off of Palatine Road)
  • Sept 23, 8:00 a.m. – Crabtree Nature Center (3 Stover Road off of Palatine Road)
  • Sept 30, 8:00 a.m. –Deer Grove East* (entrance on north side of Dundee Road, west of Hicks Road, east of Smith Street. Go to farthest and last parking area to the west of Picnic Grove #1) with optional extension to Camp Alphonse (off Dundee Road)
  • Oct 7, 8:00 a.m.— McHenry Dam (From S. River Road turn left onto McHenry Dam Road. Follow the road to parking lot-turn left and park at the far end of the parking lot.)
  • Oct 14, 8:00 a.m. – Beese Park/Younghusband* (Parking lot at corner of Cornell Ave. & George St.)
  • Oct 21, 8:30 a.m. – Galloping Hill * (Park at Penny Road Pond parking lot in Barrington Hills)
  • Oct 28, 9:00 a.m. – Crabtree Nature Center (3 Stover Road off of Palatine Road)

* Indicates a more strenuous hike.

Before you head out, please be sure to check the Citizens for Conservation website for any last minute changes or cancellations.

Click HERE for more information.

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