Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Is Hennepin Wetlands Most Diverse Spot in State?

A piece of Putnam County might be the most biologically diverse part of the state.

The Hennepin and Hopper Lakes, part of the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, offer more flora, fauna and fish than anywhere else around.

 As far back as 2001 the area was just farmland. It was an area with a broken down levee that just wasn’t cutting it anymore. That’s when The Wetlands Initiative began as they purchased the land, turned off water pumps and tried to restore it to its former glory.

Paul Botts, the executive director of the initiative, spoke at Spring Valley city hall on Tuesday evening about the changes taking place in the wetlands area.

Botts said his team addressed old maps that showed how diverse the prairie and wetland area was. Then after World War I it was turned into farmland.

“We like to say that for 75 years only two plants grew there; corn and soybeans,” Botts joked.

Although the statement is technically not true, the biological diversity of the area was completely tarnished. Botts said people thought it impossible for his team to turn the area from farmland back into a thriving ecosystem, but TWI set out to prove them wrong.

“Even when the area has been altered for decades you can bring back wetlands of real high quality,” Botts said. “But it’s not as simple as turning the pumps off and getting the water back.”

Changing the 3,000-plus-acre property back took a lot of donations and effort. The initiative encountered many problems with drainage tile and invasive carp. Common carp are bottom feeders that kill a lot of different plants and create muddy stagnant water. The carp became such a problem in the lakes that they caused a scientific anomaly.

“We proved carp can survive and breed in drainage tile,” Botts said.

But the carp are no longer a problem as the team destroyed the invasive species over a three-year period. Now plant diversity levels have hit their highest mark since the wetlands were opened.

Now that the carp are no longer a problem, the area will be open to fishing. Botts said that the lakes will be open to the public under Illinois Department of Natural Resources guidelines as soon as the paperwork is finalized through the state. He expects that to happen in the coming months.

The goal of The Wetlands Initiative team always has been to create a place for the public to enjoy.

“Our perspective always was to do this for the people. It’s an asset,” Botts said.

The initiative holds plans for the future beyond opening the area up for fishing. It already has an observation tower for bird watching and boardwalk trails that go into the marshes. There are plans to create even more trails into next year and then open up to the public for future suggestions.

“We don’t intend for this place to be for just right now. We intend for it to be for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Botts said.

Source: News Tribune


Get Ready to Hit the Streets Golf-Cart Style

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Forget about drop-top convertibles. There’s a much cooler way to ride — and it’s becoming a popular mode of transportation in the Illinois Valley area.

Sure, they are slower and are typically the staple of any Florida retirement community, but golf carts are not just made for greens and grandparents anymore.

More small-town communities in and around the Illinois Valley are adopting ordinances that permit recreational vehicles on city streets.

But, before you get to shopping for golf cart lift kits and lighting accessories, be sure to check with your town for rules and regulations before burning any rubber on city streets.

Fees: For every one of these fun vehicles, there comes a price tag. Registration stickers around the Illinois Valley area for recreational vehicles can range from a few dollars to $100 depending on the city.

Not to mention the cost of buying a recreational vehicle alone. For golf carts, a bargain hunter can find a used cart for $1,000-$5,000 that works and rides the way most town require. But for those looking to buy new off the lot, golf carts and ATVs can cost in the upwards of $10,000 or more depending on the features that interest you.

Off-limit roads: State highways are typically banned from use by recreational vehicles. In most cases, riders can cross over state highways but cannot legally ride on state highways. 

In many towns, for example, Spring Valley — which has had an ordinance permitting ATV’s on city streets for more than a year — has specific intersections where recreational vehicles can cross state highways.

Requirements: While these requirements can change drastically from one town to the next, typically, riders must be licensed, the golf cart or all-terrain vehicle must have working headlights, taillights and turn signals and must have a horn.

Sometimes these vehicles must be equipped with working  seatbelts and riders must use them properly. Some towns, such as Henry in Marshall County, require all golf carts and recreational vehicles to be inspected yearly by a police officer.

“They’re supposed to have all the equipment — lights, brakes — that a car would have,” said Spring Valley mayor Walt Marini.

Police concerns: When riding recreational vehicles on the road started to spread from town to town, police officers as well as city officials had some concerns about safety. As it turns out, riders haven’t given officers much to worry about — at least in the Illinois Valley.

Putnam County sheriff’s office chief deputy Chad Haage said when the ordinance first went into affect there were younger people driving. 

In Granville, police chief Kevin Moore said the village has no ordinance on golf carts and village police haven’t had any issues. 

Recent changes: Within the last year, two La Salle County villages, Lostant and Tonica, adopted a golf cart ordinance.

Lostant, which approved the ordinance late last year, hasn’t had many people register for the required sticker according to Lostant deputy chief Randy Railey.

“As far as I know we haven’t had anyone that’s applied for the sticker,” Railey said.

Sales: There are plenty of places to shop for your new ride.

“Our sales in the towns that allow them have really gone up over the past few years,” said Brian Leone, of Leone’s Polaris in Peru. “When Hennepin passed its ordinance, we sold a lot.”

Although you can order a side-by-side or golf cart with all the bells and whistles, Leone said that generally isn’t the case for those looking to just zip around town.

“It all depends on the budget, but typically, they just want it to look good.” Leone said. “They opt for automotive paint job and aluminum wheels.”

Leone also said the bigger the better.

“Polaris has the (Ranger) Crew, which can hold six passengers — they can give their grandkids a ride in it that way. All you have to do is look at Hennepin at the Fourth of July, there are Rangers everywhere.”

To find out more: Want to know if you can ride your golf cart in town? Call your city or village hall for the answer. If you can, make sure you take note of any specific requirements including registration, and any required lighting features.

Source: News Tribune


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

At 39 Days Above Flood Stage, Illinois River Not Helping Boat Clubs

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
High water, dangerous flow, debris and closed boat ramps on the Illinois River have all but killed the first half of summer boating.

The river began rising June 7, 45 days ago, and has yet to return to normal midsummer level. In La Salle, the river has been above the 20-foot flood stage for 39 days.

At South Shore Boat Club in Peru, half of its 48 boat slips sit vacant because members never took their boats out of winter storage, said member Dave DeGroot.

“With all this high water I don’t even know if I’m going to un-winterize my boat this year,” he said.

At times, the river was closed to recreational boating. Local boat ramps are flooded and closed.

The high water curbed weekend visits from traveling boaters to local clubs. South Shore’s new barbecue menu has offset some of this, DeGroot said.

“A lot people can’t put their boats in,” DeGroot said. “There’s just no place to put a boat in.”

For members who did dock their boats, the walkway is underwater. Getting to boats requires boarding a small rowboat and paddling out.

Spring Valley Boat Club remained inaccessible by road on Monday because of flooding. At the East Peoria Boat Club, The Miss Riverbottom festival was first postponed from late June to early August.

This is one of the largest river celebrations of the summer. But continued flooding forced the Peoria club to cancel it altogether.

South Shore’s annual Bikini Contest is Aug. 1, its biggest event of the year.

“Right now it’s a go, as far as I know,” DeGroot said.

At Hennepin Marine, co-owner Nic Keegan said many boaters are cruising other lakes and rivers.

“Since the DNR has not closed it recently, we’ve had some boaters using the Illinois River,” he said. “It has slowed the season down with the water high.”

The river has fallen and crested several times. The peak crest was June 24 in La Salle at 28.9 feet, nearly 9 feet above flood stage. This week the river is dropping and there is a stretch of dry, sunny weather forecast this week.

This has improved commercial shipping. Last week, traffic had really slowed, said Chris Rush, temporary lockmaster at Starved Rock Lock and Dam.

“We’ve been able to lock them pretty consistently but one of the problems is there is nowhere to park (barges) up above us. The waiting spots are full.”

When the river was even higher this summer, towboats didn’t have overhead clearance to pass beneath the bridge at Ottawa, Rush said.

Flooding is worse to the south. The Illinois River is closed to recreational vessels from Lacon downstream to 5 miles from the confluence with the Mississippi River. The river is closed to all traffic from Mile 90 to Mile 30, from Beardstown downstream to Kampsville, according to the latest notice from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ladd's 125th Anniversary Celebration

July 9-12, 2015



A schedule of events for Ladd’s 125th Anniversary Celebration can be viewed here.



Advance carnival ride tickets are currently on sale at the Village Clerk’s Office at $20 for a sheet of 25.  The tickets will be valid during all four days of the Celebration and rides will require two tickets each.  Due to the number of carnival rides (10) that Tinsley’s Amusements are bringing, there will be no wrist band sales.  For more information, contact Rhonda at (815) 894-2440.  Advance ticket  sales will end on Wednesday, July 8th.



Our Centennial, as in prior Anniversary volumes, contained descriptions of the families in Ladd as submitted by its citizens.  We will continue this custom by having a section devoted to brief narratives of current Ladd families in the 125th Commemorative Volume.  Please write a description of your family highlighting significant aspects such as education, employment, marriage, children and grandchildren and include a photograph.  Deliver your written narrative to the Ladd Public Library or, if in electronic form, email to no later than July 12 to allow time to be included in the 125th Anniversary Volume.  Residents are also encouraged to submit a special event for one of the last 25 years (1990-2015).  The committee is looking for something important that has happened and the year that it took place.  For example, 2008: Matt Hassler wins the Class A State High Jump Championship.  Email your submission to



Tickets are now available for Ladd’s 125th Anniversary 50/50 Raffle.  Stop by the Village Clerk’s Office, Softails Bar & Grill, Special Effect Barber/Beauty Salon or contact a committee member to purchase.  The winner will be drawn as the Celebration closes on Sunday, July 12, 2015.



Ladd’s 125th Anniversary Grand Parade will begin at 1:00pm on Sunday, July 12, 2015.   The parade entry form can be found here.  The parade route can be found here.



No celebration would be complete without fireworks and Ladd’s 125th Anniversary is no different!  At approximately 9:00pm on Friday, July 10th, a patriotic fireworks display will begin (rain date – Saturday, July 11th).  The best views of the display will be from Kennedy Park. Due to the high expense of such an event, out-of-town donations have been coming in through the efforts of former resident Donna (Carruthers) Worth.   Her letter of support can be viewed here.

125th 5K RACE


Ladd’s 125th 5K Run/Walk will be held at 8:00am on Saturday, July 11, 2015.  The race entry form can be found here.



Registration is now open for the Golden Chicken Race, an Amazing Race-type event.    The race will start at 5:00pm from the Hospitality Tent on Friday, July 10, 2015.  Teams of 2 will decipher clues and complete tasks at various Ladd locations to arrive at the Golden Chicken at the end.   No bikes, scooters, or cars, etc. will be allowed and a camera is needed.  Participants under age 21 will need parent/guardian consent as some tasks will take place in Ladd bars.  1st place $125.00 – 2nd place $50.  Deadline to register is noon on Friday, July 3, 2015.  Proceeds from the $10 registration fee per team will benefit Ladd Daze.  The registration form can be found here.



Young ladies ages 13-17 years old who are residents of the Village of Ladd are encouraged to vie for the title of Miss Ladd for Ladd’s 125th Anniversary Celebration.  Boys and girls ages 5-8 years old and also residents of the Village of Ladd are invited to participate in the Mini King & Queen Contest.  The contests will be held at 7:00pm on Thursday, July 9, 2015, at Ladd Grade School.  Entry forms are available at the Village Hall, Ladd Library, Ladd Grade School and  here.  For more information, contact Julie Hollinger at (815) 878-8205.



A Ladd 125th Anniversary Team Bags Tournament will be held on Saturday, July 11, 2015, in the Ladd Lanes parking lot.  Registration begins at 11:00am and start time is 12:00pm.  Cost is $50 per team and includes a tee-shirt for both players and a Ladd 125th souvenir cup.  Cash pay-out to the top four teams.  For information, contact Jason Fabish @ (815) 326-2104, Jen Fabish @ (815) 326-5060 or  Registration form can be viewed here.



Contact Amanda Coutts at (815) 220-9010 to include your contribution to Ladd’s 125th Time Capsule.  Family photos, business cards, or local news would all be welcome.  Here is an opportunity for you to predict what Ladd might be like in the year 2040 – Ladd’s 150th Anniversary.  Send your ‘one-liner’ predictions including name and age to for inclusion in the Time Capsule as well as the 125th Commemorative Book.  The Time Capsule will be dedicated during the Opening Ceremony of Ladd’s 125th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, July 9th.  It will be housed in the Ladd Library until the 150th Anniversary Celebration in 2040.  A link to our Facebook page Ladd’s 125th Time Capsule can be found here.



A committee is planning a Ladd Grade School Reunion and is seeking your help to spread the word.  Some classes have already named a class contact who will be sending “Save the Date” cards to their former classmates.  If you have not heard from anyone, please contact one of the names listed below.
Graduation Years
1949 and previous: Jean Conway at
1950 – 1959: Mike Grivetti at
1960 – 1969: Dave Margherio at
1970 – 1979: Kay (Gallagher) Chiado at
1980 – present: Linda (Jegglie) Peterson at
Faculty, Staff & Coaches contacts:
Nina (Cattani) Urbanowski at
Marie Fiocchi at
An open house is planned at Ladd Grade School on Saturday, July 11, 2015, from 12:00pm to 3:00pm.  Some classes have already planned yard parties and group gatherings at bars and restaurants in Ladd.  Other ideas include classes participating in Sunday’s 1:00pm parade and designing t-shirts specific to their class graduation year.  Have fun and come up with your own unique class plans.  If anyone has pictures or collectibles from your school days, please contact Jim Piacenti at  Don’t be left out, it’s going to be a great celebration!



Artisans are wanted to take part in “A Fair in the Park” during Ladd’s 125th Celebration.  The event will be held from 9:00am to 3:00pm on Saturday, July 11th on the grounds at Ladd’s Community Center. Space is limited and will be filled on a first-come basis – $25 for a 10 X 10 space.  Bring your own tables, chairs, and/or tent, this is an outdoor event with no electricity available.  For more information, contact Molly Thrasher at 119 South Chicago Avenue, Ladd IL  61329 or (815) 894-2619.  Click here to view the event flyer.



The Quilt Show committee is looking for “Quilts from the Past” to display at their Quilt Show on Saturday, July 11, 2015.  If anyone has quilts that family members have made and would like to display them at the quilt show, please complete the registration form or contact Deb Bickett (815) 894-2855 or Sandy Grivetti (815) 894-3222.  Click here to view the event flyer.



A link to our Facebook page Ladd, Illinois Celebrates 125 Years can be found here.  


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Marquis Energy Sponsors New Refuge Trail

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The Wetlands Initiative will complete a new public trail at Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes thanks to a two-year sponsorship by Marquis Energy of Hennepin.

Marquis Energy committed $100,000 over two years for the new trail, said Paul Botts, The Wetlands Initiative executive director, in a press release.

The area was known as Oak Ridge 100 years ago. The new trail, named “The Marquis Oak Ridge Trail” will be constructed for hiking and bicycles and will open in 2016.

Access will be from a new parking lot created along the north end of the refuge and accessible from Route 26. Interpretive signs will explain plants and animals and the site’s history. The new trail will feature restored habitats including prairie, meadow, marsh and open water.

The trail will end in oak savanna, which features a clump of large, old trees and a viewing platform that will provide up-close views of open water area that attracts waterfowl, Botts said.

The Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes has been designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area and a Wetland of International Importance under the global Ramsar Convention. It now totals more than 3,000 acres.

Marquis Energy manufactures ethanol and is doubling its Hennepin facility. When finished this expansion will put the plant’s production capacity at more than 300 million gallons of ethanol per year, according to the press release.

Source: News Tribune


Monday, July 6, 2015

Winning 50/50 Number - Prize Money Unclaimed


The winning 50/50 4th of July raffle ticket number is 5841 and the pot is $1042. The prize is currently unclaimed.

If you are the winner, call the Village Hall at (815) 925-7138. Please leave a message with your name and phone number if there is no answer.

Please share and get the word out. Thank you!


Sunday, July 5, 2015

2015 People's Choice Award Winner

Congratulations to Darrell Alleman of Granville, owner of the 1936 Ford Pickup, voted this year's People's Choice Award Winner at the 12th Annual 4th of July Cruise-In!

This year the Cruise-In brought in over 100 entries. Thank you to all who participated and volunteered, and congratulations to all of the winners!

See you at next year's Cruise-In!


"When You Think of Americana, This is it"

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Crowds gathered on the riverfront at Hennepin to view the village’s 39th Fourth of July celebration on Saturday.

Quentin Buffington of Hennepin has been part of Hennepin’s Fourth of July Committee for 20 years. He said after 39 years of the village hosting the celebration, “we’re getting pretty good at it.” He said the Hennepin venue is unique because there are only a couple of places between Henry and Ottawa that host their fireworks on the Illinois River.

He said the large turnout of people attending the celebration could have to do with rain in the past weeks. After the large amount of rain the area has experienced, “people were just dying to get out of the house.”

Hennepin Mayor Kevin Coleman said since the first Fourth of July celebration, the village celebrated, the event has gotten bigger and bigger.

Bill and Virginia York of Varna said they came to hear “Simply Patsy,” a tribute to Patsy Cline by Mary Pfiefer.

“It’s the ’50s,” Virginia added, saying they were both happy about the music choice for the celebration.

Even people from Chicago came for the festivities. Alberto Garcia and Jacqueline Abreu of Chicago said they wanted to get out of the city for the holiday. Abreu said she has been to Hennepin a handful of times since she was a child. They both said they like the small-town feel of the area, which is what got them to attend the event.

Jeff and Max Anke of Peru and Nancy Johnson, who lives in the country outside Hennepin, said the event is very family-oriented and said they enjoyed the fireworks last year.

“When you think of Americana, this is it,” Johnson said.

Source: News Tribune