MCCD board decides this is last year for Trail of History

RINGWOOD – This will be the final year for the popular Trail of History event at Glacial Park, the McHenry County Conservation District’s board of trustees decided.

The event has grown since its inception in 1989 to include more than 150 encampments and requires the involvement of more than 60 staff members and 240 volunteers.

The logistics and cost of putting on the Trail of History each year is part of the reason it’s being cut, conservation district spokeswoman Wendy Kummerer said, adding that the district now will be able to put its energies into a wider selection of activities and offerings.

It costs the conservation district $18,000 on average each year to put on the three-day event, not including staff resources to set up, take down or host it.

“For years, the board of trustees has supported subsidizing the costs of this premier event as a ‘gift’ to the public,” Kummerer said in an email. “In better economic times we could afford to do that, but as funds became tighter, we cut expenses as best we could without having to pass on additional costs to the public. That is no longer the case.”

Entry to the event cost $7 for adults and $3 for children 6 to 12 this past year.

Fred Durrenberg, 71, of Johnsburg, has been helping out and working as a re-enactor at the Trail of History since the beginning. He’s played a surveyor and a militia member and worked the indentured servant sale.

He can understand the reasons why the board of trustees cut the event, but added that he was still “terribly disappointed.”

The district has also had to take on more responsibilities as the number of programs and sites continues to grow, Executive Director Elizabeth Kessler said in a release. Over the last five years, 10 more sites have opened to the public.

Kurt Begalka has been going to the Trail of History since before he joined the McHenry County Historical Society, which runs the first stop visitors encounter after the district’s tent.

“I love the outdoors and I like history,” Begalka said. “It’s a nice blend of all of those things. It’s gotten so popular. When that originally started, it was a little more manageable. It’s almost become a victim of its own success.”

The historical society was ready to amp up its presence at the event, he added. It’s going to bring in some historical demonstrators this year.

The Trail of History shows visitors what life was like in the Northwest Territory from 1670 to 1850. Re-enactors demonstrate soap making, flintknapping, candle making, and wool combing and spinning.

“I was there at the beginning, and apparently I’ll be there at the end,” Durrenberg said.

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