The gathering of 55 people Thursday afternoon was a memorable moment in Woodstock history.
That was my insight during the dedication recognizing the protection of the site that marks the start of the Kishwaukee Headwaters conservation area.
The 153-acre wetland, meadow and savanna is east of Dean Street.
Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager called the occasion an “absolute joy as we dedicate this significant natural resource area to long-term preservation.”
Sager reviewed the background of the five-member partnership for the protection – McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD), City of Woodstock, Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, McHenry County Soil & Water Conservation District and Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Sager recognized his predecessor, “Alan Cornue who was a true visionary in this project and a master in bringing the partners together with his passion and powers of persuasion.”
Sager said Woodstock and its residents were humbled to be a part of such a significant project “with such monumental impact on the future.”
He said the protection and preservation of natural resources was not only for today’s residents and future generations, but in perpetuity.
The process began 10 years ago when partners bought the land from Centegra to have a “one stop-shopping” area for agriculture-related agencies, recalled Ed Weskerna, MCCD director.
“That dream fell through, but now we are using the area as an educational facility for envirothon training, soil judging contest for high schools, tree and fish sale. Illinois State Geologic survey drilled the water quality testing well. They are utilizing it to test groundwater we drink every day,” Weskerna said.
The property parking area, made of permeable concrete, includes a bus pull-off to encourage school groups to use the area as an outdoor classroom. There are nature trails and open space – a great amenity for citizens.
Speaking on behalf of the Kishwaukee River Eco-system Partnership, Ders Anderson said, “When you are trying to preserve a high quality river such as the Kishwaukee, one of the best rivers in the state, you don’t start at the bottom. You start at the top.
“What the city of Woodstock and the partners have done in committing themselves to come up with management practices and actions to preserve this river is very untypical. You don’t see this very often with our river systems. They are to be commended.”
“The ecological significance of this area is the seeps, springs and 14 different soils,” said John Peters, MCCD restoration ecologist. “The headwaters have organic heat that is about 26-28 feet deep.”
Peters said a five-year prairie restoration began in 2005 with the planting of oak trees to bring back the savannah system.
• Don Peasley has been editor, columnist and historian in McHenry County since October 1947. He began his association with Shaw Publications in 1950. He is a frequent contributor of articles and photographs. He can be reached at 815-338-1533.