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September 6, 2001

Governor Renames Park to Honor Hazel and Bill Rutherford

PEORIA -- Gov. George H. Ryan today renamed Wildlife Prairie State Park after Hazel and Bill Rutherford, who created the park and donated it to the state last year.

"I can think of no more appropriate name for this park than Hazel and Bill Rutherford Wildlife Prairie State Park in honor of those who devoted their lives to this park and to conservation in Illinois," Gov. Ryan said. "Visitors who come to this park should enjoy and learn about the outdoors, but also about the Rutherfords' many contributions to conservation and the environment."

The Governor unveiled a stone and timber sign at the park's entrance renaming the site, and assisted Mr. Rutherford in dedicating a scenic overlook he built to honor his wife who passed away last year. The overlook is a stone and wood deck containing seven bronze inlaid Native American sayings. It overlooks Hassie's Hillside, a mound that Mr. Rutherford created and planted with 17,000 wildflowers in memory of his late wife.

Since deeding the 2,000-acre park to the state last fall, Bill Rutherford has continued to upgrade the site, contributing $2.5 million of his own funds to the park, including capital improvements, operating expenses and additional land acquisition.

Established by the couple in the late 1960s, the 2,000-acre park began as an endangered species breeding farm. Animals, including bison, deer, elk, black bears and cougars still roam the restored prairie.

Bill Rutherford, a former director of the Illinois Department of Conservation, and Hazel, his wife of 67 years, were longtime conservationists and environmentalists.

The couple worked diligently to create the park and maintain its mission to promote education, recreation and tourism.


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