The newest Rock Island County Forest Preserve needs a name and Quad Citians are asked to help find one that is as right for the 179-acre site as the Loud Thunder and Illiniwek names are for the county’s most popular forest preserves. “As president of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission, I have been […]
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The newest Rock Island County Forest Preserve needs a name and Quad Citians are asked to help find one that is as right for the 179-acre site as the Loud Thunder and Illiniwek names are for the county’s most popular forest preserves.
“As president of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission, I have been asked by the commission’s executive committee to invite suggestions from the public,” said Kai Swanson, D-Rock Island, who also is a Rock Island County Board member. “We hope to settle on a name that is true to our region’s rich history, embraces our community’s values, and captures our hope for the future. And we want to hear from you.”
The county bought the land after the East Moline City Council approved a resolution in December signing off on the purchase. At the time, Mr. Swanson called the potential land purchase and a $1 million Illinois Clean Energy Foundation grant to pay for it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” (The county also will use a $75,000 grant from the Conservation Fund and an endowment for the district administered by the Quad Cities Community Foundation for the new preserve.)
The county’s forest preserve commission had been pushing for the project – the first significant land acquisition since the 1950s – to help with preservation efforts and help save endangered animals and plant species. The site will be the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District’s seventh park.
The new park’s acreage is made up of oak-hickory forest that is said to include rare black oaks, Mr. Swanson said. There are about 40 acres of fallow field space that could be restored to native prairie.
The new preserve is located near the district’s existing 173-acre Illiniwek Forest Preserve in Hampton and the Elton Fox Bald Eagle Refuge owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“In 1944 the U.S. was engaged in a global war to stop fascism, fighting in far-flung places with names like Monte Cassino and Peleliu,” Mr. Swanson said in a letter to the community. “But even in the midst of this all-consuming conflict, a group of leaders in our community had their sights set far beyond the horizon. The newly formed Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission acquired two large plots of land that would become favorite spots for generations of Quad Citizens.”
“A 174-acre tract along the Mississippi upriver from Hampton became Illiniwek Forest Preserve, taking its name from an Ojibwa word to describe the confederation of tribes that included the Cahokia, Peoria and Kaskaskia peoples, among others,” Mr. Swanson wrote. “A much larger tract just below Andalusia totaling 1,240 acres, which has since grown to 1,480 acres, is now known as Loud Thunder, using the Anglicized name of Black Hawk’s son, Náh-se-ús-kuk.”
“As anyone who’s enjoyed the wonders of these two amazing preserves can attest, we owe a debt of gratitude to the visionary community leaders who made possible a legacy that now belongs to all of us in Rock Island County,” Mr. Swanson said. “Fast forward to today, and thanks to a $1 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation, we will soon add 179-acres to the vital community trust those leaders established almost 80 years ago.”
The newest forest preserve also will “carry forward the remarkable success we’ve seen recently in bringing back to our region threatened and endangered species like the Rusty Patched Bumblebee and the Northern Long-Eared Bat,” Mr. Swanson said. “That’s something we can all be proud of. But this amazing space needs a new name.”
Quad Citians can send their name suggestions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a note to “New Park,” 19406 Loud Thunder Road, Illinois City IL 61259. Ideas will be accepted through the end of March and the name will be announced later this year.
If all goes well, the new reserve could be open by the spring or summer of 2023, Jeff Craver, director of the forest preserve district, said during the December East Moline City Council meeting.
The work, however, will just be beginning to transform it into a prairie – a process that Mr. Carver said then is likely to take three to five years. Chad Pregracke’s Living Lands & Waters environmental organization also has reportedly vowed to put in several hundred hours of work to help establish the new forest preserve.