Awards & Accomplishments

Excellence-in-Conservation-logo-COASTER_WCMcHenry County Conservation District stands as a national leader in Environmental Stewardship. 

We celebrate our achievements and look forward to new trails to be pioneered. The District’s awards and successes were made possible by those who share the vision of safeguarding, appreciating, and the health to our County’s natural areas—woodlands, prairies, wetlands, rivers and lakes as well as enhancing the quality of life for all residents of McHenry County; the people, as well as the  flora and fauna.

Awards and Accomplishments

2020
Awards
  • The Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
2019
Milestones

  • Brookdale Horse Trailer Parking Lot Opens
  • District Names 35th Site – Alden Gap
Awards
  • Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association, Exceptional Community Partner Award
  • Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Rising Shields Award to Sgt. Ryan Stewart
  • The Government Finance Officers Assoc. of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District’s comprehensive annual financial report
  • Illinois Prescribed Fire Council, Leadership Award to Restoration Ecologist John Peters 
  • Illinois Association of Park District’s Best of the Best, Intergovernmental Collaboration, with US Army Corps of Engineers for "Banking on Nature - The Nippersink 206 Project"

Site Openings
  • Alden Gap
2018
Milestones

  • District Hosts 2nd McHenry County Conservation Congress
Awards
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, Best of the Best Intergovernmental Cooperation Award – Ridgefield Trace Regional Trail
  • The Government Finance Officers Assoc. of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District’s comprehensive annual financial report
Site Openings
  • Ridgefield Trace Completed
2017
Awards

  • Great Lakes Park Institute, Program Award for Tryon Creek Woods Land Protection Partnership
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts/Illinois park and Recreation Association, 1st Place Print Communication – 2017 District Calendar
  • The Government Finance Officers Assoc. of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District’s comprehensive annual financial report
2016
Milestones

  • District hosts the 1st McHenry County Conservation Congress where over 100 delegates attend and sign the Declaration of Fundamental Conservation Principles.

Awards

  • Chicago Wilderness, Excellence in Ecological Restoration Platinum Level Lake in the Hills Conservation Area.
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, Best of the Best Partnership Award – Equestrian Coalition of McHenry County for efforts and assisting in funding 4.5 mile multiuse trail
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, Best of the Best Journalist Award – Steve Sarley, Radio Host and Columnist for promoting the outdoors and the future of fishing
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, Best of the Best Outstanding Citizen Award – Brad Semel, President of McHenry County Conservation Foundation
  • The Government Finance Officers Assoc. of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District’s comprehensive annual financial report
2015
Milestones
  • Casual Visitors to sites top 1 million (1,021,858 according to car counts on parking lots.)
Awards
  • The Government Finance Officers Assoc. of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District’s comprehensive annual financial report
Site Openings
  • Community Research Forest
  • Brookdale Multi Use Trail Opens
2014
Awards:
  • House Resolution NO. 1347 Offered by Representatives Barbara Wheeler and Michael W. Tyron, in congratulations for receipt on Intergovernmental Cooperation Award given by the Illinois Association of Park Districts for a partnership with the USFW Service's Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.  Adopted by the House of Representatives on November 29, 2014
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, Best of the Best Intergovernmental Cooperation Award for working with the USFWS and establishing the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
  • Chicago Wilderness, Excellence in Ecological Restoration Platinum Level for the Pleasant Valley Conservation Area
  • Illinois Association for the Advancement of Archeology, Preservation Award
  • The Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District's Comprehensive Annual Financial Reporting
2013
Awards
  • Park District Risk Management Agency, Accreditation in Risk Management
  • Chicago Wilderness, Excellence in Ecological Restoration Platinum Level for the North Branch Conservation Area
  • Illinois EPA and Chicago Green Cities Coalition, Green Fleets Award
  • National Recreation and Park Association, Barb King Environmental Excellence Award
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, 10 Year Service Award, Trustee Bonnie Leahy
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, Best Green Practices Award, Lost Valley Visitor Center
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, Partnership Award for the McHenry Community Research Forest
  • McHenry County Sheriff's Department, Life Saving Award, Officer Dan Hibbler
  • McHenry County Conservation District Board of Trustees, Meritorious Service Award, Officer Dan Hibbler
  • Chicago Audubon Society, Protectors of the Environment, Single Act Group Awards, Friends of Hackmatack
  • US Department of the Interior, Partner in Conservation Award for the District's role in the establishment of a bi-station National Widlife Refuge
  • National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials, Environmental Conservation Award for the Weekend of Restoration
  • The Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
  • Midwest Police Motorcycle Skills Competition, "Best of the Bricks" to Sergeant Ryan Stewart and Sergeant Ben Wolfe
Site Openings
  • Boone Creek Conservation Area
  • Dufield Pond Conservation Area McConnell Entrance
2012
Milestones
  • 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 and Art
  • Eleven fleet vehicles were purchased and converted to operated on alternative fuel, thereby reducing emissions and fuel consumption, recognizing a 10 cent per mile savings or $10,000 per vehicle over the life span 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
Awards
  • The Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
  • Illinois Park and Recreation Association, Officer of the Year, Sergeant Ty Culver
  • Chicago Wilderness Habitat Project Grassroots Leadership Award, Director of Land Preservation and Natural Resources Ed Collins and Research Field Station Ecologist Tom Simpson
  • Chicago Wilderness Leadership Award, Executive Director Elizabeth S. Kessler, for developing the Excellence in Ecological Restoration Site Accreditation Program (EERP), Excellence in Ecological Restoration Commission and Celebrating Nature Benefit Event
  • McHenry County Snowmobile Club, Special Appreciation, Conservation District for providing public trails
  • Equine Coalition of McHenry County, Special Appreciation for service to the equestrian community in providing public horse trails
  • Midwest Police Motorcycle Skills Competition, "Best of the Bricks," Sergeant Ryan Stewart and Sergeant Ben Wolfe
Site Openings
  • Fel Pro RRR West Entrance
2011
Milestones
  • 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 is 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 US Fish and Wildlife Service study which evaluated the establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge in our region
  • Staff assisted in the completion of the completing 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 6 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 Say" snow activities
Awards
  • The Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
  • Awarded "gold level" of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for renovation of Lost Valley Visitor Center
  • Midwest Police Motorcycle Skills Competition, "Best of the Bricks," Sergeant Ryan Stewart and Sergeant Ben Wolfe
Site Openings
  • Winding Creek Conservation Area
  • Lake in the Hills Fen Conservation Area
2010
Milestones
  • 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 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 was installed along a half-mile looped trail at Pleasant Valley Conservation Area 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 a site after dark
  • District awarded nearly $3 million in grants; Framework for long range planning
Awards
  • The Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada Excellence in Financial Reporting for the District's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts/Illinois Park and Recreation Association, Outstanding Facility Award for the Lost Valley Visitor Center
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts/Illinois Park and Recreation Association, Outstanding Green Marketing Brochure for the Lost Valley Visitor Center
  • Illinois Parks and Recreation Association, Fellow Award, Executive Director Elizabeth S. Kessler
Site Openings
  • Lost Valley Visitor Center
  • Kishwaukee Headwaters Conservation Area
  • Nippersink Canoe Base Improvements
2009
Milestones
  • 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
  • Park District Risk Management Association accreditation
Awards
  • NAI Region 5, Director's Award, Administrative Assistant Trish Greninger
  • Park District Risk Management Agency, A+ Loss Control Review Accreditation
Site Openings
  • Ridgefield Trace Phase I
  • Stone Mill Trail
2008
Milestones
  • The Comprehensive Site Development and Public Access Plan completed, which assess 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 5 years
  • A Recreational Use Policy was put into place that defined the types and variety of activities to be 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 leasers to protect the county's last remaining oak system
  • The District developed the first of its kind, Ecological 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
Awards
  • Chicago Wilderness, Habitat Project Grassroots Leadership Award Executive Director Elizabeth S. Kessler
  • Habitat Project, Pied Piper Award, Volunteer Coordinator Denice Beck for recruiting dozens of new Plants of Concern and Seed Collection volunteers.
  • Trust for Public Lands, County Leadership in Conservation Award, Oak Ecosystems A Vanishing McHenry County Legacy
  • National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials, Planning Initiative Award, Outstanding Accomplishments: Oak Ecosystems—A Vanishing McHenry County Legacy; Friends of the Fox River, Environmental Hero Award, Education Outreach Coordinator Mary Kozub
Site Openings
  • North Branch Conservation Area
  • Bog Bog Conservation Area
2007
Milestones
  • Voters approve $73 million referendum for land acquisition, wildlife habitat restoration and recreational improvements
  • Comprehensive Site Development & Access Plan created; Natural Areas Protection Guide presented to municipalities
Awards
  • McHenry County Defenders, Theta Award, Land First Task Force; Illinois Association of Park Districts, Outstanding Citizen Volunteers, Prairie Trail Safety Watch
  • National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials, Partnership Award, Prairie Trail Safety Watch
  • The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, Living with Trees Award
  • McHenry County Soil & Water Conservation, Conservation Partnership Award, for promoting Natural Resource Management Systems  on publicly owned farmland.
Site Openings 
  • County Line Road Access
  • Elizabeth Lake east side
2006
Milestones

  • Land acquisition tops 20,000 acres
  • Conservation District celebrate 35 years
Awards
  • IL House of Representative, Certificate of Recognition for the Grand Opening of the Huntley-Union-Marengo Trail, commemorating the District on providing a recreational resource linking neighborhoods, schools and communities
  • Illinois Association of Park Districts, 1st Place Website Design, MCCDistrict.org
Site Openings 
  • H.U.M. Trail
2005
Milestones
  • Camp Algonquin is purchased
Awards
  • National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials, Outstanding Accomplishment in Parks and Recreation, Backyard Native Garden
Site Openings
  • Elizabeth Lake west side; Pleasant Valley
2004
Site Openings
  • Fox Bluff Conservation Area
  • Marengo Ridge Campground
  • Dufield Pond
2003
Awards
  • National Association for Interpreters Region 5, Master Interpreter, Education Coordinator Kim Compton
  • Illinois Park and Recreation Association, Officer of the Year, Sergeant Ryan Stewart
Site Openings
  • Research Field Station
  • Hebron Trail
2002
Awards
  • McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission, Outstanding Preservation and Restoration of a Natural Area for preservation and restoration of Alden Sedge Meadow
2001
Milestones
  • Voters approve $68.5 million referendum for land acquisition
Awards
  • McHenry County Defenders, Special Honor for remeandering and restoration of Nippersink Creek within Glacial Park
Site Openings
  • Silver Creek Conservation Area
2000
Awards

  • McHenry County Historic Preservation Committee, Outstanding Preservation for Restoration of a Natural Area for the de-channelization of Nippersink Creek
  • McHenry County Historical Barn Preservation Association, Special Recognition for Keeping McHenry County Barns Outstanding in the Fields, Wiedrich Barn and the reconstruction of the Fred Hatch silo, the first vertical silo in the U.S.
Site Openings
  • Fel-Pro RRR
  • Exner Marsh Conservation Area
  • Stickney Run Conservation Area
  • Brookdale Conservation Area
1999
Milestones
  • Dechannelization of Nippersink Creek
  • McHenry County Conservation Foundation is chartered
  • Communications Dept. formed
Site Openings
  • Prairieview Education Center
  • Entire 26-mile Prairie Trail
1997
Awards
  • McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission, Outstanding  Preservation and Restoration of the Natural Vista along the Prairie Path
1996
Milestones
  • Powers-Walker House restoration begins
1995
Milestone
  • Candlelight Ski Program started
Awards
  • Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Regional Director’s Partners for Wildlife Certificate of Appreciation,  Outstanding Contributions to Management of Resources on Private Lands
1993
Milestones
  • Blanding's turtle research project begins
  • Wild turkeys are reintroduced
Site Openings
  • Wildlife Resource Center
1992
Site Openings
  • REnovations to the 1902 Wiedrich Homestead Barn is complete and the result is the opening of the Wiedrich Education Center.
1988
Site Openings
  • Coral Woods Conservation Area
  • Prairie Trail North
1987
Milestones
  • Natural Resources Department formed
Site Openings
  • Prairie Trail South
  • The Hollows Conservation Area
1986
Milestones
  • McHenry County Conservation District Police Department formed
  • 1st prescription burn
Site Openings
  • Piscasaw North
1983
Award
District recieves President Reagan's Environmental Excellence Award

1982
Site Openings
  • Thomas Woods Campground
1981
Site Openings
  • Nippersink Canoe Trail
  • Hickory Grove 
1979
Milestones
  • First Festival of the Sugar Maples
1976
Milestones
  • First Interpretive Naturalist Hired
  • First Land and Facility Ranger Hired
  • First publication of the District's public newsletter- Landscapes
1975
Milestones
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education project started
Site Openings
  • Glacial Park
1974
Site Openings
  • Rush Creek Conservation Area
  • Marengo Ridge Conservation Area
1973
Milestones
  • First parcel purchased - 50 acres in Beck’s Woods, Chemung
  • First Site Opened to the Public - Harrison Benwell, Wonder Lake
Site Openings
  • Beck’s Woods
  • Harrison Benwell 
1972
Milestones
  • Ken Fiske selected as the first Executive Director (Served 1972-1985)
  • District logo is selected from thousands of submissions by county grade school students (modified in 1986),
1971
Milestones
  • Voters of McHenry County support referendum to create a Conservation District
1969
Illinois Conservaition District Act is passed

1963
Illinois General Assembly authorizes the creation of conservation districts.