Rock Island County forest preserve could get name by May, June

Quad Citians responded in a big way to the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission’s call to help name its new 179-acre preserve under development near its Illiniwek Forest Preserve in Hampton.

Kai Swanson
Kai Swanson

Kai Swanson, the commission’s president, launched the public request for a name back in February at the direction of the commission’s executive committee. At the time, he also said, “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.”

Quad Citians did not disappoint. “We had a tremendous response to our invitation to submissions,” he said.

“Some of the lead contenders are words taken from the Sauk language, so I have been in contact with the director of the Language Department for the Sauk and Fox Nation in Oklahoma to confer on the appropriateness of certain nominations,” he told the QCBJ. “Once that’s cleared up, we’ll bring the finalists to the executive committee, then to the full commission.”

If all goes well, Mr. Swanson said the preserve could have a new name by May or June.

The fact that the Sauk names were high on Quad Citians wish lists isn’t all that surprising given the names of two other successful and popular Rock Island County Forest Preserves.

For example, in February, Mr. Swanson reminded QCBJ readers of the moniker of Illiniwek Forest Preserve. It came from the Ojibwa word to describe the confederation of tribes that included the Cahokia, Peoria, Kaskaskia and other peoples. In addition, he said then, the 1,480-acre preserve near Andalusia is called Loud Thunder, “using the Anglicized name of Black Hawk’s son, Náh-se-ús-kuk.”

Rock Island County bought the land for the new forest preserve through a  $1 million Illinois Clean Energy Foundation grant. It 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 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. This is 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 as well as about 40 acres of fallow field space that could be restored to native prairie. 

If all goes as planned, the new reserve could be open by the spring or summer of 2023, Jeff Craver, director of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, said last December.

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.

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