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July 26, 2001

Ryan Signs Legislation to Honor Peoria Couple with Park in Their Name

SPRINGFIELD-Gov. George H. Ryan signed SB12 today that will rename Wildlife Prairie Park the Bill and Hazel Rutherford Wildlife Prairie State Park, in honor of the couple who deeded the park and education facility to the state last fall.

"This bill is a suitable way to acknowledge and honor Bill and Hazel Rutherford's contribution of Wildlife Prairie Park to the State of Illinois," Gov. Ryan said. "Their longtime commitment to conservation and the environment will be remembered for years to come."

The State Park is located in Peoria County and consists of 2,000 acres, and more than 10 miles of trails. Established by the couple in the late 1960s, the park began as an endangered species breeding farm. Animals, including bison, deer, elk, black bears and cougars still roam on the restored prairie.

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

The couple worked diligently to maintain the park's mission to promote education, recreation, and tourism. After Hazel's passing last September, her family handed the deed over to the state at a ceremony held on the park's grounds.

SB12 was sponsored by Senators George Shadid, D-Edwards; Carl Hawkinson, R-Galesburg; Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo; Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora; and Representatives Michael Smith, D-Canton; Ricca Slone, D-Peoria Heights; Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, David Leitch, R-Peoria; and Don Moffitt, R-Gilson.


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