McHenry County’s oldest resident was struck down by the derecho wind on Aug. 10, 2020
Tired of maintaining large sections of lawn grass and want to attract birds and butterflies?
In the 1970s, Alice McCluggage and her family moved from the city to a homestead in Harvard, IL.
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC) has preserved an 83.5-acre parcel, Crowley Oaks Preserve, in Harvard.
A listing of local sources for farm-fresh food.
One family’s story of preserving 40 acres of oaks in McHenry County.
This is the story of Alix Blair and her memories of growing up on her family’s land.
There are many ways to help oaks, whether at your own home or throughout McHenry County! Here are some ideas:
- Volunteer at a TLC restoration workday or Oak Rescue. Workdays are held on some weekdays and almost every weekend. Check the TLC calendar or follow us on Facebook so you know when the next workday is. No fancy clothes are tools are needed, just wear sturdy boots/shoes and clothing that can get burn holes. Snacks and tools are provided!
- Seed collecting. If you have native plants in your landscaping, collecting seed from them can be a fun and rewarding event! Spread them around on your property, or if you have limited space, you can donate them to TLC to use in our restoration projects! Learn more about seed collecting here!
- Acorn Roundup. Collecting acorns is a great way to get your kids, friends, neighbors or students outside and involved in a worthwhile project! Learn more here.
- Help plant oaks at our spring and fall Celebration & Memorial Oak plantings. Volunteers are always welcome! To get started, fill out our volunteer form here!
TLC interns collected seed in the summer of 2019.
Learn more about oak trees
- Learn to support and incorporate oaks in your landscape. Programs include:
- How to Convert Lawn to a Wildflower Meadow with Seed
- Tree and Shrub Identification Part 1- Trees Part 2 - Shrubs
- Collect and Share Native Seed so others can enjoy the benefits of native plants. Open to TLC members, Seed Sharing Day takes place on a weekend in the fall. The 2020 date will be announced soon!
- Learn the tools to inspire others to become advocates for our local natural communities. Attend TLC's free Nature Talk workshop in early February 2021.
- Learn to conduct a prescribed burn. Prescribed burns are an important tool for maintaining natural areas and preserving high quality habitat for plants and animals. Periodic fire has been an important part of the historical landscape, and is one of the best ways to control weeds and unwanted brush, as well as to promote a healthy diversity of plants. TLC's prescribed burn class is held in late March.
- Tree & Shrub Identification - TLC offers these classes in the winter and spring/summer. Learn more about the trees in our area and how to identify them.
- Beginners Chainsaw Training - Learn about personal protective equipment, basic chainsaw maintenance, and the development of technique to safely fell a tree and cut it up. The chainsaw training class is offered each fall.
- Learn to Burn - Held in late March in Woodstock
- Vernal Pool Hike - Held in late April near Harvard
- Spring Wildflower Walk - Check out the video from May 2020 and learn more about our native wildflowers.
Whether planted in your yard or at a public park, planting oaks is one of the best things you can do for the local environment.
- Buy oaks to plant during TLC's Spring and Fall Sustainability Sales.
The fall sale runs from early August-end of September.
- Purchase a memorial/celebration oak from TLC.
It’s the five-year anniversary of TLC’s [email protected] program!
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC) hosts an amateur photography contest each year to highlight the inspiring natural landscapes found throughout McHenry County.
Amateur Photo Contest Site Descriptions
Boloria Meadows Nature Preserve, Bull Valley
36 acres preserved in 2004, transferred to TLC in 2017
Today, it is a challenge to find undiscovered natural areas tucked away behind the curtains of invasive brush and trees found along so many of our roadways. But these natural treasures do exist, and this is one such place. Named after the genus of silver-bordered Fritillary butterfly, Boloria Meadows has winding nature trails that lead through high quality prairie, sedge meadow and oak woodland ecosystems that abound with seasonal wildflower displays.
Donato Conservation Area, Woodstock
26 acres owned by the City of Woodstock, managed by TLC since 2006
The restoration efforts here began years ago with the students at Woodstock High School and their teacher, Bill Donato. The woodland is transforming from a dense overgrown buckthorn thicket into a place where hiking trails lead through delightful spring wildflowers and brilliant autumn foliage. Volunteer workdays are held during the fall and winter if you’d like to lend a hand!
Frisbie Conservation Easement, Woodstock
56 acres dedicated in 2011
Meadows of prairie, wetland, and woodland wildflowers and grasses spread out over this land that was farmed until the early 1990s. Landowners Hugh and Marlene have managed the invasive species, performed prescribed burns, and added native seed over the last decades. They’ve been rewarded with a lovely knoll of large flowered trillium standing under bur oak trees.
Harvard Gateway Nature Park
17 acres purchased in 2012
When TLC acquired this site we discovered a true gem: the county’s largest White Oak, with oak limbs sprawling and reaching for the abundant sunlight. In the buckthorn-free woodland and wetland, birds such as the indigo bunting and swamp sparrow thrive.
Hennen Conservation Area, Woodstock
25 acres dedicated in 2008
Phyllis and Tony Hennen acquired this land in the early 1970s, planting thousands of native hardwood seedlings in land that once was farmland. They donated the land to the city of Woodstock as a public park, and TLC moved its offices to the farmhouse. Over decades, the land has transformed into a wild and natural place where trails lead you through a sea of wildflowers and groves of trees.
Hidden Marsh Conservation Easement, Hebron
25 acres dedicated in 2007
When David and Joanne first purchased their land, there was so much buckthorn and honeysuckle that it was hard to see the rise of the glacial kame, the wetland, and even Wisconsin (just across the property line). Rare glacial landforms exist on this property--a few small kames and one long, thin esker. Standing on top of these you will find remnant dry gravel hill prairie plants like prairie smoke and an excellent overview of the whole property.
Irish Oaks Savanna, Harvard
40 acres preserved in 2017
Named after the abundance of Irish settlers in this region during the 1880s, Irish Oaks Savanna features a unique abundance of open grown oaks and pockets of wet sedge meadows. Volunteers meet monthly to cut the buckthorn, allowing the native wildflowers to flourish.
May/Seidler Conservation Easement, Alden
24 acres preserved in 2017
Here a stretch of the Nippersink Creek flows through a woodland dominated by shagbark hickory. The landowners have been enhancing the creek with projects that add fish habitat and reduce erosion by the additional of gravel and cobble in the stream bed.
Moehling Conservation Easement, Dorr Township
15 acres dedicated in 2010
This property boasts remnant oak/hickory woods, wetlands, and a mix of trees planted through the Forest Management Plan of Illinois. Mel and Cheri have been busy clearing invasive brush and planting wildflowers, and every year the place gets more beautiful!
Ryders Woods, Woodstock
22 acres owned by the City of Woodstock, managed by TLC since 2006
A group of concerned citizens called “Friends of Ryders Woods,” active back in the 1970s, worked to ensure this intact oak woodland located blocks from the Woodstock Square would provide peaceful enjoyment to residents forever. Today, the City of Woodstock, TLC, and local volunteers work together to maintain the woods. By managing the buckthorn and other invasive species, TLC and volunteers have transformed the woods into an open and inviting sanctuary for people and wildlife.
Simon Conservation Easement, Alden
1 acre dedicated in 2007
Stephanie Shetler-Simon and Jerry Simon acquired a beautiful stretch of land with the Nippersink Creek
running through it. This preserve has spring-fed natural communities that include wet prairie and sedge meadow. The bright yellow flowers of marsh marigolds and blue flowers of iris provide color from late spring to midsummer. These plants provide refuge for amphibians, reptiles and other wildlife.
Soulful Prairies, Hartland Township
33 acres dedicated in 2013
The wetlands and ponds found on this property serve as a resting and feeding place for migratory birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds. The marsh attracted a great diversity of wildlife, including birds of concern such as the yellow-headed blackbird and the least bittern.
In the words of landowner Linda Bruce, “The focus was to create a beautiful place with sustainability, restoration and salvage in mind. Each step along the path has brought about growth and change. As we restore the land there is a sense of renewal that we wish nothing more than to share with others.”
Spring Hollow Conservation Easement, Bull Valley
25 acres dedicated in 1977, transferred to TLC in 2013
This easement has achieved Illinois Nature Preserve Status--a classification given to the highest quality remaining habitats in Illinois. Dick and Betty Babcock were the first Illinois family to dedicate a permanent conservation easement on their land in December 1977, making use of the law which Dick Babcock helped create. They named this place Spring Hollow for its many natural springs and rolling topography, and it is still in the family today.
Swanson Conservation Easement, Ringwood
4 acres dedicated in 2009
Walking paths wind through groves of oak trees and around ponds, all offering an astounding view of various spring wildflowers. Few backyards can boast the number of songbirds, frogs and other critters that also call this their home. Thanks to years of careful tending and the foresight to dedicate an easement, this backyard will remain natural in perpetuity.
Dorothy Weers Conservation Easement, Dorr Township
11 acres dedicated in 1993
Thirty-three acres of prairie, oak woodland and sedge meadow will remain undeveloped forever through the two conservation easements Dorothy Weers placed on the property she owned. While Dorothy is no longer with us, her legacy continues as the new owners continue to care for the property.
Westwood Conservation Area, Woodstock
63 acres owned by the City of Woodstock, managed by TLC since 2006
In 2010 this property was dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve and buffer for the adjacent TLC Yonder Prairie. Restoration work has been underway for several years to open up the woodland full of massive oaks, and to gently transition the edge into prairie.
Wingate Conservation Easement, Nunda Township
4 acres dedicated in 1994
Bill Wingate, famous for his “Wanders with Wingate” nature walks around McHenry County, lived on this property with his wife Ardath. They transformed their backyard into a wonderful place to enjoy their own nature walks, under the trees and along a stream.
Current landowners Randy and Nancy Schietzelt have done a phenomenal job continuing to care for the land that Bill Wingate tended. Nancy is active with the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, and Randy serves on the board for The Land Conservancy. You can usually find them putting in countless hours of work at an environmental event or restoration workday throughout the county.
Walking paths wind through oak trees and offer an astounding view of various wildflowers. Few backyards can boast the number of songbirds and other critters that also call this place home. Thanks to years of careful tending and the foresight to dedicate an easement, this backyard will remain natural in perpetuity.
Wolf Oak Woods, Bull Valley
30 acres dedicated in 2016
Wolf Oak Woods is named after the Wolf Oak - a large, open-grown bur oak with limbs that spread out and, overcome with their own weight, swoop down to touch the ground and grow back up again. The Wolf Oak tree, clearly visible from a major highway in the county, has become a cultural icon and ecological relic. Beyond this tree, the preserve includes 30 more acres of ecologically intact wetland and oak woodland. Volunteers have been clearing this site at Wednesday morning workdays to free up more sunlight for the carpet of spring ephemerals and wildflowers, such as Dutchman’s Breeches and Shooting Star. A prairie has also been planted near the Wolf Oak to create beneficial habitat for our pollinators.
Yonder Prairie Nature Preserve, Woodstock
72 acres purchased by TLC in 2008
Prior to the purchase of this land, it was deemed the highest quality unprotected natural area in the county. Walking through this site you’ll pass by pockets of remnant wet prairie- areas that rarely have standing water but the soil is saturated and moist most of the year. The adjacent oak savannas and woodlands are transforming from a wall of buckthorn into native habitat for our birds, mammals and pollinators.
Want some practical tips on how to rid your property of invasive tree species such as buckthorn and honeysuckle?
Do you love TLC's amateur photography contest photos?