Saturday, August 1, 2015

2006 Volunteer Trail Project for Lake County (IL) Forest Preserve District

On the north boundary of Libertyville, Illinois, is Lake County Forest Preserve's "crown jewel," Independence Grove Forest Preserve, a former quarry now flooded and offering fishing, boat rentals, beach, concession stand, playground, pavilions, and more. This 1135 acre preserve and its 115 acre lake also is the site for summer day camp for children. 

St. Francis Woods abuts it on the north straddling the Des Plaines River and the Millennium Trail, and it is used by the summer day camp program for environmental and outdoor education. Two loop trails for nature hikes were needed and I was asked to build them, which I did in March/April of 2006. I partially utilized a section of manway created over the years by fishermen, but also had to carve new trail through numerous dense underbrush thickets as seen in the next three photos. The preserve staff flagged the trail corridor with orange markers.

In the photo below, the trail corridor is taking shape through the tangle of underbrush.  The asked me not to dig too deeply to reach firm soil. Rather, they wanted foot traffic that summer to more firmly establish the tread for future years. The forest preserve district was most helpful in this project, providing trail tools, chain sawing fallen tree trunks, and delivering wood and rebar pieces for the stairways. I intend to hike the trails again in the late fall/winter to lop summer growth and "touch up" sections needing more definition, and to return next spring and lop back any impinging growth. (In fact, I went back the next three springs and fine-tuned the two trails, by which point the tread was firmly established.)

Two stairways needed to be installed to keep the day camp students safe on their field trips into the woods, but not to install a large, obtrusive stairway. The goal was to keep the trail and its surroundings as natural as possible, even to the point of leaving sawn tree trunk sections alongside the trail, so instructors can roll the logs over and show the bugs working on the wood.

Below are photos I took a couple months later showing the lush foliage and one of the short stairways they wanted installed to make it safe for youngsters.

A section of the new trail overlooks the bay pictured below, one of several bays which branch off from the large lake. The bridge at the top center carries a bike trail over the inlet into the bay. The Overlook and Lakeshore Trails run around the perimeter of the lake and each is well over 2 miles in length, giving an idea of the size of the preserve. Shore fishing is very popular in this bay, and boats can be rented to allow fishing over the entire lake.

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