McHenry County Local News

Community Exchange: Friends of Kishwaukee Fen making a difference

Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves/Friends of Kishwaukee Fen is hosting a volunteer workday from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 19. Volunteers are asked to meet at the end of Palmer Drive near the Kishwaukee Fen in Lakewood and to dress for the outdoors.

In the group’s two years as stewards of the land, members say they have seen some major ecological victories. They report: “The fen is a rare and precious wetland type. It is dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve, meaning it’s protected from development in perpetuity. But there are other threats.”

One of the volunteer leaders, Rebeccah Hartz, said, “The worst invasive brush has been removed, and the highest quality fen areas are no longer in danger of being shaded out.”

The group is removing brush from the adjacent habitat to restore the prairie with prescribed burning and seeding with native species. Members say the “degraded former prairie is an important water recharge area, additional habitat for many grassland species, and buffer between the wetlands and the neighboring golf course and agricultural field.”

The restoration is led by trained volunteer ecologists, and new volunteers are welcomed and trained during every workday. Additional support comes from the village of Lakewood (which owns the site), the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and the Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves.

After work, the volunteers share snacks and stories. As volunteer Patti West said, “Being part of a community of people who value educating others about this fragile and rare ecosystem has been wonderful for me. I look forward to every workday at Kish fen.”

To learn more about this effort, visit

BLUE STAR BANNERS: You’ve likely seen the Blue Star banners displayed along Route 14 between Dole Avenue to near Keith Street in Crystal Lake and, like me, wondered what they are about.

The city of Crystal Lake and the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce created the Blue Star Banner Program to honor the local men and women in the community as well as city of Crystal Lake government employees actively serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Program President Donna A. McAnally said the Blue Star Banner Program offers the opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of our military members and to show gratitude for their service. Banners are provided for free on behalf of the honorees and include their name and branch of service. The banners are displayed along a stretch of Route 14 known as Heroes Row for a four- to six-month period. The banners are presented to the nominating party when they are taken down.

The Blue Star Banner Program has a website with details about its work ( as well as a Facebook page (

Nomination applications are available on this website, or email or send mail to the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, ATTN: Blue Star Banner Program, 427 W. Virginia St., Crystal Lake, IL 60014.

Businesses and community members are welcome to become sponsors of the program through donations. Sponsorship forms are available on the website. The program is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Dennis Anderson, vice president of news and content development for Shaw Media, lives in Crystal Lake. He’s looking to share news about you and your neighbors and special events and happenings. Share your Community Exchange news with him at