$100,000 Nature Project Planned Near Hennepin by Wetlands Group

Image credit: Putnam County Record
More trails, birdwatching platform, natural restoration envisioned

Volunteers and scientists have spent 18 years building trails and restoring wetlands, lakes and prairie throughout a more than 3,000-acre nature area south of Hennepin.

But they have not done much work at the northeast corner of the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge.

That’s about to change, as The Wetlands Initiative received an $18,045 wildlife habitat grant from Illinois Department of Natural Resources for restoration of the 42-acre Violet Meadow south of Coffee Creek.

“It’s an area where we had never really done any intensive restoration,” Vera Leopold, grants manager for The Wetlands Initiative, said. Chicago-based TWI is a private entity but keeps the nature area open to the public.

Starting in 2001, TWI turned off pumps that had been used by farmers to drain a natural Illinois River backwater area, and then clean water came in to create Hennepin-Hopper Lakes within the former drainage district’s levees.

Violet Meadow parallels Route 26 near the north levee, near a roadway that leads to the existing Oak Ridge Trail.

TWI will provide more than $92,000 in matching funds for the initial project in the Violet Meadow area as well as a total of 195 acres including seeding, planting native prairie plugs, disconnecting tile and drainage lines and prescribed burns for restoration of mesic prairie, according to the DNR.

Leopold said the work initially will focus on management of aggressive cattails and removal of invasive honeysuckle, both of which “are really starting to dominate that area.”

Leopold said they named the area Violet Meadow because four types of native violets grow in one of the “seep” areas within the 42 acres, and TWI plans to introduce one other native violet.

TWI plans to create a trail loop southeast to the violet meadow, and eventually plans to install a platform for birdwatchers. The acreage also includes wetlands, woodlands and sedge meadow.

“Our goal is to get a portion of trail done in the next two years,” Leopold said.

What’s been happening lately?

Local site manager Rick Seibert said until recently, he had not heard much about the next project, but nature lovers should like the addition.

He said the southern part of Hennepin-Hopper Lakes, near the boat ramp, has attracted a lot of birdwatchers lately.

In addition to all kinds of ducks dropping in, birders have been showing up this fall to see a bird that they want to add to their lists of birds they’ve seen in their lives, the glossy ibis.

The bird’s range has been spreading from the southeast, but they were rare here.

Source: Putnam County Record