State grants will make The Hollows in Cary more accessible for all

Two state grants will add paved walking path, accessible canoe/kayak launch on Lake Atwood

A conceptual plan for the proposed improvements for the McHenry County Conservation District's The Hollows and Lake Atwood, created as part of its 2023 OSLAN state grant application.

Two Illinois Department of Natural Resources grants will help make The Hollows in Cary and Lake Atwood more accessible to everyone, a McHenry County Conservation District official said.

“That is really the headliner,” conservation district planning and development manager Amy Peters said. “It is going to be a paved, hard surface trail that goes around the entirety of Lake Atwood.”

Earlier this month, the district was awarded a $200,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program, or OSLAD, grant for Americans with Disabilities Act improvements.

A second, $80,000 Boat Access Area Development grant, also awarded by the IDNR, will allow for the installation of an accessible canoe and kayak launch on the lake.

The Hollows is one of our most popular conservation areas and Lake Atwood offers unique water recreation experiences

—  McHenry County Conservation District planning and development manager Amy Peters

The conservation district “didn’t do a lot of restoration and let it come back naturally. It is intriguing to see how nature regenerates itself after being so disturbed,” she said.

The two grants go hand-in-hand as part of an overall accessibility plan, she said.

The kayak launch will feature paved areas and a transfer bench, allowing disabled users to get into and out of canoes or kayaks, she said.

The OSLAD grant will replace a 1-mile woodchip and gravel path with a paved trail around the 22-acre Lake Atwood. A second fishing pier, new signage, solar lights and the main entrance sign also will be replaced, Peters said.

The Hollows spreads across 478 acres and was originally a gravel mine. It was opened as a park in October 1983.

“It is is a unique landscape because it was a gravel pit” from a time when gravel mine operators were not expected to restore the land as they are now, Peters said.

The conservation distroict “didn’t do a lot of restoration and let it come back naturally. It is intriquing to see how nature regenerates itself after being so disturbed,” she said.

To make the new, paved path completely accessible, there may need to be some grading changes and switchbacks along with other steps to restore the shoreline, she said.

While the work is completed, set for March 2025, some sections of trail may be closed during the offseason.

Once everything is completed, the conservation district seeks to create a before-and-after drone video of the improved park.

“It will be cool to see,” Peters said.