As McHenry County continues to grow, a tremendous amount of pressure is placed on healthy, sustainable natural communities, groundwater supply, and accessible recreational amenities. However, McHenry County Conservation District continues to implement purposeful projects, promotions, and programs that will help shape the future of McHenry County and the northeast region of Illinois.
- The Comprehensive Site Development and Public Access Plan completed, which assessed the park and recreation needs of the county and identified and prioritized the top 42 projects that would receive funds and resources over the next five years.
- A Recreational Use Policy was put into place that defined the types and variety of activities allowed on District sites.
- On-line registration for education programs is implemented.
- The Education Department kicked off the FOX Club, (Families Outdoor Exploring) to address Leave No Child Inside goals.
- The Oaks of McHenry County, a study which quantified oak loss was published and released. This landmark study appealed to local municipalities and government leaders to protect the county’s last remaining oak ecosystems.
- The District developed the first of its kind, Ecological Restoration Certificate Program to further strengthen stewardship amongst its citizens. Partnering with McHenry County College, the program provides volunteers and private citizens with a series of college level courses on all aspects of ecological restoration.
- A Natural Areas Impact Evaluation Policy was developed as an outreach and resource to municipalities, whereby staff would respond to public notices, IDNR consultations, or petitions and provide information on best conservation practices for a development proposal.
- District logo and rebranding initiative was created.
- Attendance at the Trail of History topped 12,000 for the 20th Anniversary of the popular weekend event.
- Visitation at District sites topped 850,000 annual visitors.
- The Conceptual Framework Long Range Plan 2010–2030 was completed which set the direction for protecting 10% of the county’s open space; promoting innovative guided and self-guided programs that build understanding of healthy ecosystems; and providing high-quality outdoor recreational programs that promote healthy, active and sustainable lifestyles.
- McHenry County’s Conservation Design Ordinance and Groundwater Monitoring Research adopted standards for subdivisions and other land developments that requires developers to look at the land first to ensure that natural areas and groundwater recharge is being preserved. The District allowed the installation of 15 groundwater monitoring wells on conservation sites.
- The Lost Valley Visitor Center opens, a facility that promotes sound environmental practices, the exploration of natural history, and the study of natural resources. The first public LEED Gold facility in McHenry County a model for green technologies for reducing energy consumption and environmental design.
- The District kicked off S.W.E.E.P. Safety Watch Education Environmental Program, a cooperative effort between the District’s Police Department and local residents. The program encourages neighbors and regular site users to call in any unusual or suspicious behavior.
- Education Programs, school field trips and outreach programs were hosted for over 12,000 students, adults and families at 621 programs, events and workshops.
- Solar Lighted Hiking/Cross Country Ski Trail were installed along a half-mile looped trail at Pleasant Valley and along a one-mile loop at Hickory Grove Highlands the following year, expanding hiking and cross-country skiing opportunities during the winter season, allowing visitors on site after dark.
- Solar Powered Automatic Gates were installed at all District sites, thus eliminating the need for staff to drive throughout the county to open or close gates, saving both time and money.
- The Weekend of Restoration program launched.
- The 2012–2015 Strategic Plan was completed, which identified best practice initiatives to ensure that facilities and programs will meet or exceed public expectations. The primary objectives included an updated Comprehensive Site Development and Public Access Plan, an ADA Audit and Transition Plan, and long-range planning for land acquisition, natural areas restoration, and wildlife population recovery and management.
- The District positioned itself in support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study which evaluated the establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge in our region.
- Staff assisted in the completion of the updated Green Infrastructure Vision of Chicago Wilderness, which encourages private conservation easements and life trusts, connecting greenways through trails and improved residential land planning.
- Landscapes magazine transformed to a 40-page, color publication and distribution tops 20,000.
- Over 11,200 campers enjoyed the District’s six campgrounds.
- Several new special events are initiated including Prairiefest, Leave No Child Inside, Camping Sampler, Nature at Night, a 40th Anniversary Celebration, and “Seize the Day” snow activities.
- Eight new sites were opened over the past 15 months for the public to enjoy additional trails and enhanced recreational amenities.
- The District adopted the Americans with Disabilities Act System-Wide Site and Facility Accessibility Audit and Transition Plan.
- The Festival of the Sugar Maples hosted at Coral Woods celebrated its 33rd anniversary attracting 1,900 people.
- First Friday Concert Series is launched as well as a new spring special event Celebration of Wildflowers & Art.
- Eleven fleet vehicles were purchased and converted to operate on alternative fuel, thereby reducing emissions and fuel consumption, recognizing a 10 cent per mile savings or $10,000 per vehicle over the lifespan of the vehicle.
- The Conservation District played a key leadership role serving on the Interagency Planning Coordination Team for the establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Illinois and Wisconsin.
- District Receives National Recognition from NRPA as recipients of the Barb King Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Award.
- Boone Creek Conservation Area opens to the public as the 33rd site
- Brookdale Multi Use Trail Opens
- Casual Visitors to sites top 1 million
(1,021,858 according to car counts on parking lots.)
District hosts the 1st McHenry County Conservation Congress where over 100 delegates attend and sign the Declaration of Fundamental Conservation Principles.
Chronological History At-A-Glance
Chronological Order of Site Openings