The Wetlands Initiative is looking to make an even bigger splash.
Purchase of Hickory Hollow will be one of several advances at the Dixon
Waterfowl Refuge, commonly known as Hennepin and Hopper lakes.
Foremost will be the closing on Dec. 17 on the purchase of 433 acres, named Hickory Hollow, to the south of the refuge.
There is also an ongoing work on Oak Ridge trail and restoration project
on the north end. And intensive surveys by veteran fisheries biologist
Wayne Herndon and his crew found no common carp, not one, in the lakes;
which means some form of public fishing will reopen sometime in 2015.
“We will need a new coming-out party for this,” executive director Paul Botts said.
He’s right about that. TWI will need to prepare for a significant jump
in public interaction.
I am all for it. I say that as somebody who already makes side trips to
climb the tower and view the refuge anytime I am in the vicinity.
Something about seeing that we can bring back wild spaces restores my
spirit, my belief in my fellow humans.
The Dixon Waterfowl Refuge is one of the grandest ongoing experiments
in the wild world of Illinois. The original nearly 2,700 acres of the refuge
around Hennepin and Hopper lakes returned with glorious vengeance
when the drainage pumps were turned off in 2001. That alone started
the ground-breaking floodplain restoration along the Illinois River.
I’ve marveled since the first time I saw the refuge in the fall of 2001
when Dick Schroeder took me around in a john boat using push poles.
We could not believe how quickly sago pondweed and other aquatic
vegetation came back on its own.
It was wildly magical.
The purchase and restoration of Hickory Hollow is vital because
it will protect the Thomas W. and Elizabeth Moews Dore Seep,
largest seep along the Illinois River. The designated Illinois Nature
Preserve contains unique species, including the state-endangered
Hickory Hollow also will allow direct access to Route 26, which will
help with signage (“a big glowing duck or whatever’’) and a
“It has been in our sights from the beginning,’’ Botts said.
Hickory Hollow, a bluff directly overlooking the seep, is on land
owned by Vulcan Materials.
TWI made a run at Vulcan early on but found no interest. Then some
The Nature Conservancy folks tipped off TWI that Vulcan might be
ready. Vulcan is giving TWI “a bargain sale’’ at just under $1.6 million
for the land that contains wet and dry prairie, rare sand oak savanna
and an important stream bed.
About 133 acres will be put into a conservation or agricultural easement
and sold to help pay for the purchase and restoration. Botts said a buyer
“should call us now.’’
The deal took some doing.
The Oberweiler Foundation started it with $50,000 spread over three
years. A cool million came from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (corrected);
also $600,000 came from Grand Victoria Foundation, half for purchase
and half for the restoration, set to begin next fall. The national
not-for-profit, The Conservation Fund, provided the bridge for $300,000
to complete purchase.
“It is a fixer-upper, for sure,’’ Botts said.
The right kind.
For info, go to wetlands-initiative.org.