Couple Makes a Lasting Difference in Preserving Land for Life
Stephanie and Jerry Simon value the preservation of habitat for native plants and wildlife.
Stephanie and Jerry Simon on their five-acre property in Harvard.
The cause is so important to them they decided to make an impact in a meaningful way by leaving their five-acre Harvard property to TLC in their will, along with funds to help TLC take care of the land in perpetuity.
It all began with the Simons’ home garden and their interest in wildlife. They researched plantings that would attract birds to their garden. They learned about native plants that support a myriad of wildlife as opposed to exotic plants that mostly serve only the human senses.
An article in Chicago Wilderness magazine led them to TLC. They read about a group of people in Alden who worked together to preserve and restore their private habitat in the greater High Point area. The story inspired the Simons to begin looking for property to restore and eventually retire on. As Stephanie says, “What better place to acquire land than that which is surrounded by folks already creating and preserving a mosaic of protected habitat?”
Jerry and Stephanie reached out to Linda Balek at TLC to see if a suitable property was available in the area. At the time there wasn’t, but about a year later, Linda referred them to the five-acre parcel that they ended up buying.
It’s easy to see why the Simons were drawn to the property, and they have worked hard to restore it. A gravel hill offers dry habitat for many bird and insect species, and during spring and fall migration, hundreds of species are drawn to the property. A variety of native trees are scattered on the perimeter of the parcel, adding to the habitat diversity.
The headwaters of the Nippersink Creek runs through the land, but when the Simons bought the property, the creek was badly eroding deeper every time there was a storm. TLC helped the Simons secure grant funding to hire a contractor to repair the creek. Non-native reed canary grass was replaced with native plants, the eroding stream banks were stabilized, and the stream was reconnected with its floodplain so the rushing water spreads out across the land during storms, rather than cutting through a ditch.
Because the property is in the High Point area, there is connectivity of habitats with land preserved by TLC, the McHenry County Conservation District and private conservation easements.
The Simons enjoy seeing the new plant species and wildlife that make appearances as the restoration matures. Native plant and insect is a concern of theirs, and they wanted to ensure the land was protected in perpetuity, so worked with TLC to donate a conservation easement to protect part of the land from future development.
A bumblebee hovers above the Indian paintbrush and sand coreopsis on the Simons’ property.
The life and vitality of the land has, at least for now, convinced the Simons not to build on the property. Stephanie says, “As the land takes shape, offering various types of wildlife habitat, we remain eternally confused about which habitat we’d destroy to build a home.”
The Simons may amend the easement to include the entire property, but in the meantime, they wanted to be sure they property would not be sold for development if they passed away before that happens. That is why they included a provision in their wills donating the land to TLC when they die, and providing funds to ensure TLC can take care of the land forever.
“We’re grateful to offer even a small piece of Earth to future generations that may enjoy open, undeveloped space, and we are super excited that the area continues to be stitched together with neighboring conserved space,” Stephanie says.
She concludes, “We appreciate the help and support of TLC, the amazing people associated with TLC, and the wonderful community we’ve met. The experience of watching the land evolve and become a more viable habitat, as well as the friendships we’ve formed, has been a life-enriching experience.”
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County receives calls from people every year wondering how they can leave their land or an easement on their land to TLC in their wills.
The short answer is “Of course!” TLC has guidance documents that should prove helpful to you and your attorney, and a brief questionnaire to make sure your conservation goals will be fulfilled through the gift.