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July 21, 1999

Governor Signs "Open Land Trust" Legislation; Largest Open Space Acquisition And Preservation Program In Illinois' History

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today enacted his landmark "Open Land Trust," an initiative designed to help communities acquire and protect open space for future generations.

"This legislation will significantly increase Illinois' ability to set aside land for open space to benefit our grandchildren and the generations that follow," Ryan said. "Illinois ranks almost dead last among the states in the amount of public lands for its residents.

Ryan made seven stops to share his plan for natural resource areas statewide. At each location, the Governor gave highlights of local projects that could be affected by the Open Land Trust Act.

"For years, local governments throughout Illinois have been unable to come up with the money they needed to preserve and restore the prairies and forests of this state -- pieces of land like The Grove here in Glenview."

In 1836, the family of Dr. John Kennicott purchased 886 acres of land, including the parcels now known as The Grove. Currently, The Grove is a National Historic Landmark consisting of 124 acres of restored woodlands, prairie and wetlands. Over 130,000 people visit the site annually.

Not only will the Open Lands Trust help secure our natural heritage, but also communities will be able to draw on the Illinois FIRST program for help. Through Illinois FIRST, the governor announced a $240,000 grant to help with the construction of the Techny Bike Trail. The trail will link five Metra stations and will provide access to numerous parks and preserves including the Great Park at the Glen.

At his next stop, Ryan returned to the Volo Bog State Natural Area to announce that the Illinois' Open Lands Program will protect and enhance the state's only "quaking bog." The Volo Bog is a 900-acre National Natural Landmark with marshes, restored prairies, woodlands and two additional bogs."Land developers once threatened the very survival of this unique site, but the people didn't allow urban sprawl over take the natural wonder of this area," Ryan said.

Volo Bog is among a handful of state sites that organizes educational programs. Ryan first proposed the Open Lands Trust during a visit to the Volo Bog in 1998.

In McHenry County, Ryan stopped at Moraine Hills State Park, which contains one of the few glacial lakes in Illinois that remains undeveloped. It contains the 115-acre Pike Marsh and the 120-acre Leatherleaf Bog, one of the state's most popular parks with nearly one million visitors annually. The park is home to a wide variety of rare wetlands plants and birds. The park also plans to construct a new board walk at Pike Marsh.

Since the state began acquiring property for the Moraine Hills State Park in 1939, more than 10 miles of trails for walking, hiking and biking have been completed. The proposed completion of the Prairie Trail at the park will allow people to bike into the woods on trails instead of on congested roads promoting safety for both bikers and drivers.

Ryan also visited the Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary to announce that through Illinois FIRST, the Schaumburg Park District will receive $750,000 towards the completion of a new $2 million lighted soccer complex that will include 10 fields. The Schaumburg Athletic Association identified the need for the upgrades in soccer fields several years ago. Since then the association and park district have been working with local and state officials to identify project funds for the soccer fields.

The Park District and Greater Woodfield Convention and Visitors Bureau plans to host tournaments that will bring in visitors from around the Midwest and from around the country.

The governor also announced that Illinois FIRST will provide the Village of Schaumburg with a $100,000 grant for creation of a Geographic Information System, or GIS. The GIS is a key component to expanding local government efficiencies for public services.

GIS is designed to streamline government and help develop strategies to address public concerns, train employees and upgrade hardware and software to bring greater efficiency.

At the historic Peck Farm, which contains a small lake, adjacent wetlands and a restored prairie, Ryan commended the preservation efforts of local farmers and concerned citizens. The Peck Farm property provides important watershed protection for Mill Creek and the Nelson Lake Marsh State Nature Preserve.

Local farmers were willing to sell land that eventually became Peck Farm, to the Park District for less than they would have received from developers. Ryan noted that the future of the undeveloped farm land is in doubt. But, with the help of the Open Lands Trust, local residents will now have the tools they need to keep properties like this in public hands.

In Wheaton, the Governor visited the Lincoln Marsh Preserve to build upon the efforts of the Boy Scouts and local volunteers to save and restore the Marsh. The Marsh, along Winfield Creek, provides critical storm water storage, wildlife habitat, open space and educational opportunities for thousands of people annually in the Wheaton/Glen Ellyn/Carol Stream region.

Governor Ryan also announced that the Cosley Zoo, the only zoo in DuPage County, will be receiving an Illinois FIRST grant worth $50,000 to improve public access to the zoo and its animals. Cosley Zoo offers free admission to the public.

In Bolingbrook at Poplar Park, he visited a bike path to discuss his initiative and announce an Illinois FIRST program grant awarding $400,000 to help with the construction of a bikepath and greenway trail in Bolingbrook. The trail will eventually link up with the DuPage River Greenway Trail and the Lily Cache Greenway Trail.

The Illinois "Open Land Trust" is a $160 million program that will provide $40 million per year over the next four years for land purchases and improvements. The first year funding for the program is included in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget.

Senate Bill 1087 provides state funding for land acquisition as well as a combination of grants and loans to local governments for open space protection. Local governments in rural areas where the state purchases land would be provided with community planning grants for capital projects. The program provides for partnerships with non-governmental organizations; provided that lands acquired with state funds will remain under governmental ownership.

Under the program, state and local governments would acquire land for conservation and recreation purposes. All land acquired through this program would be from willing sellers only.

Currently, the state budgets just $3 million annually for the acquisition of natural areas. Over the past seven years, however, as much as 70 percent of those funds have been diverted for other state expenditures. To compound the problem, Illinois exhausted its bonding authority for general land acquisition three years ago.

Senate Bill 1087 was sponsored in the House by Representatives Andrea Moore, R-Libertyville; Mary Kay O'Brien, D-Coal City; Dave Winters, R-Shirland; Patricia Lindner, R-Aurora; and Ricca Slone, D-Peoria Heights. The Senate sponsors were Senators Doris Karpiel, R-Carol Stream; Steven Rauschenberger, R-Elgin; James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale; Dick Klemm, R-Crystal Lake and Evelyn Bowles, D-Edwardsville.


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