Over the past four years, hundreds of volunteers have spent time out at the Pioneer Fen – Dutch Creek Conservation Area in Johnsburg to restore the land to its native state.
Resident Ron Branum credits Robert Roe for the ecological improvements and the ongoing restoration efforts at the conservation area.
“Everyday citizens like Robert, who consistently devote time and effort to lead volunteer causes, positively shape the community in ways that will deliver benefits for generations to come,” said Branum, who nominated Roe as an Everyday Hero.
Roe, originally from Maryland, is a volunteer steward for the Pioneer Fen – Dutch Creek Conservation Area and moved to the area in 2001.
When he moved to Johnsburg, the surrounding acres of land resembled a “dead zone.”
The outdoors enthusiast with a passion for conservation took it upon himself to learn more about the history of the Dutch Creek area and took ecological restoration courses at the McHenry County Conservation District.
Then he began recruiting others, including individuals from the conservation district, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the village of Johnsburg to join him on the labor-intensive work.
Roe launched the Dutch Creek Volunteers in 2007. Since then, more than 200 volunteers have joined the effort, logging in close to 3,000 hours to remove invasive plants, plant oak seedlings and other native seeds, and conduct prescribed burns for native land restoration.
Some of the dramatic ecological improvements from a casual observer’s point of view include the greater opening of the prairie and the active wildlife.
“There is a sense of fulfillment because you can see the tangible benefits of what you contribute,” Roe said.
Despite the accomplishments, there’s plenty more to do for Roe and the volunteers.
“It’s a way to reach out to the next generation of people and ultimately many of them will probably stay in Johnsburg and they’ll raise their own kids. …
“The journey will continue far after the current group of volunteers.”
So far, the group’s attention has been devoted to about 60 acres on the southern end of the conservation area, near Johnsburg Road and Riverside Drive.
“There’s another 100 acres for the north that we’ve got to tackle,” he said.
The Roe lowdown
Education: Bachelor’s in aerospace engineering from University of Maryland
Job: Vice president of engineering services for Celestica
Favorite plant: Oak trees
Hobbies: hiking, physical fitness