Woods of Wisdom
"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively, the land ... a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land – community to plain member and citizen of it ... it implies respect for his fellow members, and so also respect for the community as such."
--- Aldo Leopold, "Sand County Almanac"
Chuck Smead Retires from the Kankakee River Forest Preserve District Board
On July 8, 2008, Chuck Smead was presented with a plaque honoring over 18 years serving as a Board member. Ken Allers, chairman of the Board, said that Chuck Smead is the longest serving commissioner ever in the history of the district, which has increased about 508 acres through his work over the years. Mr. Smead worked with Floyd Swink, botanist with the Morton Arboretum and author of Plants of the Chicago Region to list and photograph the native wildflower species found on the Aroma Land and Water Preserve on Heiland Road in Aroma Park.
Chuck began his service with the Forest Preserve District in March of 1990. He had been a Kankakee Community College biology professor, and was recommended for a forest commissioner position by former KCC colleague Steve Liehr when Liehr left the board. Mr. Liehr stated that he recommended Chuck because of his expertise in biology and his belief in the importance of open space.
Chuck served a period as Forest Preserve board president, and for many years was head of the site development committee. Chuck’s many contributions to the Forest Preserve include the tree sapling planting at the Shannon Bayou site, the Gar Creek Prairie reconstruction project, the memorial tree program, the district educational programs, and the reforestation project in Limestone. He helped acquire acreage along Heiland Road in Aroma Park, 35 acres at theGar Creek site, the old arboretum site along Waldron Road in Aroma Park, and the 64 acres of Shannon Grove where the district office and interpretive center is located. When the Gar Creek site was acquired, the planting and fire management for the native prairie reconstruction was done with the help of some of Chuck’s former KCC students. Chuck designed the Aroma Preserve trail and the self-guided trail brochures, where hikers can walk through woodlands, prairie and wetland to trail’s end at the Kankakee River. Chuck’s vision of open space is a legacy preserved for the benefit of all.
Meet Your New Commissioner
I have recently retired in 2005 from ZLB Behring, now CSL Behring, where for the past several years I was Director of the Bioanalytical Laboratory in Preclinical R & D and U.S. Technical Operations. My area of interest was analytical biochemistry, in particular, the structure and function of human plasma proteins. I started there in 1969 when it was Armour Pharmaceutical in the Biochemistry Research group as a lab rat and spent the next 36 years enjoying a very satisfying career. During that time the Company evolved, through various mergers and changing of hands to what it is today. I worked my way from bench scientist to lab manager. When we became an international company in the ‘90’s I was given additional responsibilities heading up a group of scientists to establish analytical capabilities in the U.S., France, and Germany to take advantage of the unique expertise at the different sites. That led to the Directorship that I held until I retired. My educational background include a B.S. and M.S. in Biological Sciences. My family and I have lived in the Kankakee area for about 35 years. I have always had a strong interest in nature and our environment and preserving and improving what we have today.
--------- Richard L. Weeks
A Fifty + Year "Life Affair" With a Tiny Little Creek
A Story About a Kid, a Man, a Creek, and "Currents"St. George Creek, or Canavan Creek, or any one of the other local "endearments by which this local stream is known by the local area residents, is an interesting and important drainage system for a large part of Kankakee County. So – whether called "St. George Creek", "Baker’s Creek", or Canavan Slough", depends on where one is looking at it. The Creek is considered officially a "stream" in Illinois.
Located predominantly in the north and eastern part of Kankakee County, this stream is given the following map coordinates:
41˚ 13’ 58" N
87˚ 46’ 11" W
Not really very romantic! Oh well!
A stretch of the creek runs right into the village of St. George, Illinois; the locals refer to it in that stretch as the "St. George Creek". To the northern end of the stream and on several of the local bridge plates along the creek one can find the usage of the term "Canavan Slough", while to the south, in and around the small group of homes located near the Exline Farmer’s Elevator, it is usually referred to locally as the "Exline Creek". Finally, as one nears the mouth of the creek, at the point at which it enters the Kankakee River on the north side approximately ¼ mile east of Interstate 57 it is called "Baker’s Creek".
Starting as a trickle in Will County west of Beecher, St. George Creek is joined by another even smaller creek which runs parallel to it from about 5 miles north and east of Whitaker to where it joins the St. George Creek about 2.5 miles north of St. George village. For most of the journey from the source to the final destination, St. George Creek crawls along over many muddy bottomed miles. Some of these miles actually allowed for some short canoeing places before the "straightening" and dredging of the creek in the 1970’s. The creek goes through very rich Kankakee County farm ground, finally nearing its end in the last few miles where the slow waters become a slightly different creek. Just as it passes the community of Exline, it transforms into one of the few rocky bottomed and more rapidly moving stretches of the creek. Here it begins to cut its way into the same bedrock shelf which one finds on a much larger scale in the Rock Creek Gorge at Kankakee River State Park.
To this long gone-from childhood, nearly 60 year old resident of the tiny village which lends the creek its name "St. George Creek", at least locally, it is a place of very strong "currents". Through the life of the individual telling this story is a lifetime’s worth of incredible "Mark Twain" type adventures along its varied banks.
Although our grandfather had farmed in Kankakee County and our father grew up in this area, in the 1950’s, we were the only family living on a certain island in the Niagara River approximately three miles upstream from the Niagara Falls. In late 1957 we moved here in the midst of a severe winter storm. It seems kind of funny in retrospect how the "currents" of a life are seen not only in St. George Creek itself, but also in this person’s life – a typical journey of a boy to a man down this otherwise hardly ever noticed tiny tributary to the County’s single largest stream, the Kankakee River.
While the Kankakee River is the end of this creek’s journey, it adds many of its own "currents" to many of the county residents’ life stories. The Kankakee River has a much larger history, but perhaps no more exciting story, at least to a young 8 or 9 year old kid. At that young and extremely impressionable age, it was the most exciting place in the whole world, before the county dredged it and took out all of the wonderful twists and huge rocks, boulders and meandering bends with huge and deep holes, all of which made it a truly great place to find good fishing and some wonderful days in the "secret" swimmin’ holes.
Truth is, there were several huge boulders, upon which on many a warm and sunny morning or afternoon, this young "Tom" or "Huck", take your pick, could be found, if one were so inclined, to be laying face down, barely breathing, lost in total anticipation of the next large bass to dive in under those huge rocks on the upstream side of the stone, where the undercurrent had created huge holes. And where the bass, or so imagined this little adventurer, went to cool off and get out of the hot sun. It was the thrill of the hunt, the anticipation of a catch and the thought of holding another of the beautiful little bass, which kept him there, lying on that rock, hour after hour, till finally one of the bass would go under. Quickly, the lad would cup his hands together, go into the hole, trapping the bass and bringing it out to have a quick look, and just as quickly, after having lain there for sometimes several hours, allow the quarry to splash back into the water to go on its way. That was the total beauty of this creek. For those who have never played the "rock-hole fishing game", you have no idea the joy it brings, to actually catch one after hours of patient waiting.
Along its banks, in days gone by, were many places of true adventures. In the long-gone era, when this young man’s father was a youth growing up in this area on the farm that his father farmed, the creek was truly a slough. The system had large areas of marshy growth all along its length. There were and still are, in some remote areas close by, a few small remnants of those once vast slough and swampy marshes. There were plenty of pheasants, doves and squirrels, not to mention marshy areas teaming with the beautiful Red Winged Blackbird. Geese still come annually to this creek. Even now, some of these remnants hold a few beaver, along with many ducks, muskrats and rabbits, hunted still by local coyotes and fox.
Oh yes, if one knows the holes, there can still be some really good fishing, although unfortunately one does not seem to find catching a shiner as much of a thrill at 60 years old as they did at 6, 8 or 10 years old. Fortunately though, for this almost 60 year old – sometimes called a "kid" by his friends – can often still be found in some of the more remote areas of the creek, walking very slowly upstream in sneakers, wading and staying in the shadows and watching the ripples for small fish just waiting to come to the surface for a fly or a gnat. With just the right touch, this grown up big kid’s dry fly can look enough like a real morsel to excite a rock bass or a creek chub. The all important threads of life – the current which drove the Boy is the current seen in the Man.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s, and yes, even as a young man well into the 70’s, this was the boy’s/man’s passion; to hunt, fish, swim, canoe, camp out and otherwise spend every non-working or out of school minute somewhere along the banks of this creek. More nights were spent from 8 till 20+ years old camping along the creek year-round than most people spend camping who have luxury motor homes or lease vacation condos.
Unlike 40 or 50 years ago, one can no longer, really, use this creek as a canoe area or walk its miles, kicking this stone or picking up another to toss into the silent waters. But long ago, in a world vastly different from right now, this was a wonderful and mysterious and magical place for those who are, have been, and perhaps always will be, called by the current of life, to be and always wish to be, a child at heart.
Momence High School Visits the Forest Preserve
On a beautiful sunny day this fall, Momence students visited the Aroma Preserve for a field trip as part of their science curriculum. The Momence science classes have a "hands-on" morning in the woods as part of their science studies, each student collecting a variety of leaves to preserve and identify. A good time is had by all as the students enjoy getting out in nature and honing their "real world" citizen naturalist skills. The school has brought their students out to the Forest Preserve on this field trip or several years, and as "trail guide" I especially enjoy sharing with them one of my favorite activities at our Forest Preserve – a walk in nature.
------- Jean Hurrle, program director &"trail guide"
Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird?
By Bridget Stutchbury
Biology Professor, Woodbridge, Ontario
Though a consumer may not be able to tell the difference, a striking red and blue Thomas the Tank Engine made in Wisconsin is not the same as one manufactured in China — the paint on the Chinese twin may contain dangerous levels of lead. In the same way, a plump red tomato from Florida is often not the same as one grown in Mexico. The imported fruits and vegetables found in our shopping carts in winter and early spring are grown with types and amounts of pesticides that would often be illegal in the United States.
Tale of a Denali Trek
With the first step I knew this place was special. The tracks made it so, as we proceeded up, "Social Trail", on Primrose Ridge, Mt. Margaret, and Denali. The thick willows grabbed at our backpacks and a fresh scar was laid across my left hand from a sharp edged branch, a cut I will hate to see heal as it will fade with my memory of this place. We prodded through the thickets and mud holes laden with bear tracks and reached freedom at the break above the tree line. The land became open and expansive with the first few steps.
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last updated on August 26, 2013