“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
With apologies to Juliet, I’d like to suggest there’s plenty in a name, and we need your help.
Thanks to a $1 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation, the Quad Cities will soon have a new 179-acre nature preserve to explore. And we’re not the only ones to benefit. As the professional leadership of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve has shown through its stewardship of existing parks like Loud Thunder and Illiniwek, thoughtful restoration of our natural areas brings back native plant and animal life that has all but disappeared from our region.
Restoring stands of hickory and black oak, which have largely been crowded out by fast-growing, low-canopy species like red maple, can spur the return of the endangered Indiana bat. The new park also presents opportunities for prairie restoration, which invites the return of native — though largely absent — species like the rusty-patched bumblebee and bobwhite quail.
That’s all well and good for those of us who think the health of the planet is important. But let’s not leave out economics. Partnerships with local organizations like Friends of Off-Road Cycling, Living Lands & Waters, and River Action have created amenities in our forest preserves that attract visitors from far afield. Be sure to check the parking lot next time you’re at Niabi Zoo; you might be surprised by the license plates you see there. The new park will be no exception.
Whether it’s unparalleled trail cycling at Illiniwek and Dorrance preserves, equestrian facilities at Loud Thunder, kayaking on Lake George, state-of-the-art RV camping or riverside tent sites, the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District supports destination marketing. That’s why the district works with Visit Quad Cities in promoting our region so we can attract outside visitors, and, of course, the dollars they bring with them.
With all that in mind, the Forest Preserve Commission wants your help in naming our newest park. We hope to settle on a name that speaks both to our rich history and to our aspirations for the future.
Please share your ideas by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a note to “New Park” at 19406 Loud Thunder Road, Illinois City, IL 61259. The commission will accept ideas through the end of March, and announce a name as we get closer to the park’s dedication. You can also learn more about all of the district’s conservation and education projects by visiting www.ricfpd.org.
Kai Swanson is a Rock Island County Board member and president of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.