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Spring Grove celebrates Hatchery Park grand opening

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(Candace H.Johnson ())
Candace H. Johnson for the Northwest Herald Andy Plauck, a district fisheries biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, shows a live blue gill fish Saturday from the hatchery tanks to Tyler Orlos and Jimmy Helminiak, both 9 of McHenry, with Boy Scout Webelos Troop 916, during the grand opening of Spring Grove Hatchery Park.

SPRING GROVE – Mason Raffauf, 8, sat back and enjoyed a short hayride to one of his frequent fishing spots Saturday afternoon after playing football earlier in the day.

Mason, of Richmond, suddenly perked up as the trailer pulled closer toward the scene of the park’s grand opening celebration.

“Holy cow; that’s cool,” he blurted.

The village of Spring Grove welcomed the public throughout the day for the grand opening of its Hatchery Park, a celebration that’s been years in the making.

At the visitors center, housed in the original hatchery building, the public can learn more about the hatchery’s history. Out in the park is a mile-long trail, new docks and piers for catch-and-release fishing.

Mason left his fishing pole at home Saturday, but planned to be back soon.

“It’s fun,” he said. “Out here, you’ve got to learn to sit and be patient or you’ll never be able to catch a fish.”

The park, 2314 Hatchery Road, was once the site of the largest fish hatchery in existence when it was developed in 1914 by the Illinois Department of Conservation, Village President Mark Eisenberg said during the event’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

At its peak, the hatchery spawned more than 35 million fingerlings a year, he said.

Then in 2004 the hatchery, already in need of repairs, was decommissioned by the state.

Village officials, including former village presidents Bob Martens and Tom Sanders, worked with state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, to transfer ownership of the hatchery to Spring Grove. But it took more time to garner enough funding to rehabilitate the hatchery.

In 2008, the village was awarded a $300,000 matching grant from the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development. Eisenberg commended Village Trustee and Parks Chairman Bob McMahon for leading the effort four years after.

“This used to be a hatchery,” Eisenberg said. “Now, it’s a hatchery museum.”

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