CHICAGO- The Garden Clubs of Illinois, Inc. today honored First Lady Patti Blagojevich and more than two dozen Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) employees for their efforts to beautify roadways around the state through the planting of wildflowers and trees.
“The First Lady has brought the issue of restoring and preserving our natural heritage front and center,” said Denise Regent, president of the 9,000-member strong Garden Clubs of Illinois. “We commend her for advocating on behalf of this issue that affects the quality of life of everyone who lives in Illinois or drives through the state.”
The First Lady launched her Wildflowers of Illinois project in 2003 as part of her larger State Beautification Initiative, which is an outgrowth of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s focus on environmental issues. The initiative was designed to improve the quality of life in the state, to enhance tourism, to restore Illinois’ ecological identity and to make Illinois a more beautiful place.
“The Wildflowers of Illinois project was launched because we recognized the need to do more to preserve and share the natural beauty of our state,” said Mrs. Blagojevich. “I’m happy to say that due to the efforts of many dedicated IDOT employees, some of whom are here today, we have succeeded in restoring almost 200 acres of prairie along our roadways. That’s an achievement we can all be proud of.”
The First Lady’s Wildflowers of Illinois Program is carried out by IDOT and consists of two separate initiatives: Wildflowers for Illinois Gateways, which has resulted in restoring almost 200 acres of prairie, primarily along roadways at state borders; and Wildflowers for Illinois Communities, in which IDOT has partnered on beautification projects with 33 municipalities around the state. The program incorporates using innovative approaches to enhance the delivery of basic government services.
“Thanks to the inspiration of the First Lady, IDOT is channeling existing resources towards restoring the natural prairie in areas around the state,” said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin. “Our aims are to foster economic development, promote responsible stewardship, encourage environmental understanding and reduce roadside maintenance costs. We also want to make Illinoisans proud of their state’s natural heritage. It is a great honor to have The Garden Clubs of Illinois recognize the accomplishments of IDOT employees across the state.”
The awards ceremony was held at the Lisle/Naperville Hilton Hotel. National Garden Club President June Wood, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, also attended the ceremony.
Fore more information about the First Lady’s Wildflowers of Illinois project, go to: http://www.illinois.gov/firstlady/wildflowers.cfm.
Following are the IDOT employees and work units who were honored by the Garden Clubs of Illinois for their outstanding work in various areas of roadside beautification, including the Wildflowers for Illinois Project:
District 1 - Theodore Rummage, Resident Engineer: Theodore was instrumental in protecting existing oak trees and planting wildflowers as part of the Torrence Avenue Bridge reconstruction project near Lynwood. Over 2,000 native woodland wildflowers were planted along the bike trail that crosses Illinois Route 83 and passes through several forest preserves. Theodore ordered timely watering and weeding to help get the wildflowers established.
District 1 – Kim Harvey; Design Engineer, Alix Brice; Design Engineer, Mike Denne; Resident Engineer: Kim, Alix and Mike were involved with improving roadside plantings as part of two overpass projects in the Village of Homewood. At the entry to Homewood, Ridge Road passes over an abandoned railroad corridor. Cherry trees, sumac, and plum were planted to beautify the area and stabilize the steep slope. At Riegal Road, native understory trees were planted to screen nearby homes and compliment the wooded atmosphere of the neighborhood.
District 1 – Ronnie Baker; Resident Engineer, Raymond Coston; Engineer Technician, Fabiola Quiroz; Landscape Designer: Ronnie, Raymond and Fabiola all worked together to help beautify a portion of the newly reconstructed I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) between California Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive. The overall design celebrates the linkage between the expressway and the I&M Canal..
By carefully integrating the expressway into the neighborhood they were able to use 1,244 tons of native limestone materials, 1,912 trees, 5,704 shrubs, 4,162 vines, 6,457 perennial and ornamental grasses, and 1,660 daffodil bulbs.
District 3 – Rick Flessner, Field Technician: Rick was actively involved in the beautification of our roadsides by supervising the preparation, organizing the planting and managing the District 3 Gateway Wildflower Site. The project is one of 23 Gateway sites located throughout the State and is part of the First Lady’s Wildflower Program. The seven-acre site is located along US 24 near the Indiana state line. Several small patches of native flowers and native grasses are situated around a small rest area and truck scale house near Shelton, IL.
District 3 – Jim Snyder, Resident Engineer: Jim was the Resident Engineer for IDOT on the reconstruction of the Shippingsport Bridge over the Illinois River that joins the cities of LaSalle and Oglesby. This major improvement affected some of the existing natural features in the immediate vicinity of the structure. Jim not only arranged for the relocation of threatened and endangered plants but also ensured only directly impacted trees were removed while the remaining trees were protected.
District 4 – Team Section 411 – Monmouth: Team Section 411 Maintenance Yard crews worked diligently on a number of projects responsible for improving the natural and aesthetic environments in their area. This Team Section is not only responsible for the planning of the Gateway Wildflower Site on US 34 near Gulfport but others projects such as the rebuilding of portions of the Dallas City Rest Area and refurbishing the Covered Bridge Rest Area and the New Boston Rest Area.
District 7 – Stanley E. Grabski; District Engineer (Retired), Jerry Allen; Operations Engineer (Retired), Tom Strohl; Services & Development Unit Chief, Tom Wilson; Landscape Architect, Joe Howell; Operations Technician, Ken Kessler; Operations Technician, Jim Hubbard; Equipment Technician, Mona Steffen; CADD Operator, Team Section 722; Lawrenceville Yard, Team Section 742; Enfield Yard, Landscape Section 770: These individuals from District 7 played important roles in the District’s efforts to prepare, plan and install the plants and seeds at the District’s Gateway Wildflower sites. Through their efforts the sites were prepared for planting and seeding. The sites included a 6-mile stretch of US 50 in Lawrence County and also extensive plantings at the Skeeter Mountain Rest Area near the Indiana state line. There extraordinary efforts will assure the success of these sites.
District 8 - Jennifer Hunt, Senior Environmental Specialist: Jennifer is responsible for the handling of the tree replacement work on one of the largest projects in District 8, the Alton Bypass Project, which resulted in a loss of 16,000 trees. She was given the task to find locations for the replacement trees and to date she has successfully seen that nearly 75% of the 16,000 trees have been replaced.
District 9 – Glenn McLernon; Landscape Architect, Larry Piche; Section Chief, Forrest Rogers; Equipment Engineer, Mark Wece; Maintenance Field Technician, Randy; Schaefer; Maintenance Field Technician, Christy Patterson, Team Section 921; Marion Yard, Team Section 923; Belgrade Yard, Team Section 931; Cairo Yard: These individuals from District 9 played important roles in the District’s efforts to prepare, plan and install the plants and seeds at the District’s Gateway Wildflower sites. Some of the individuals also assisted the communities of Carbondale, West Frankfort, Harrisburg, Eldorado and Mt. Vernon with their Community Wildflower sites. Through these individuals extraordinary efforts these sites will succeed in the coming years.
Day Labor – Tim Zahrn; Section Chief (Retired), Rick Brunette; Road/Bridge Engineer, Troy Gundy; Support Technician, Raymond Watkins; Highway Construction Supervisor II, Brian Ruder; Highway Construction Supervisor II: These individuals coordinated Statewide with all 9 of our Highway Districts in the preparing and planting of the 23 Gateway Wildflower locations. These sites are part of the First Lady’s Wildflower Program and they are scattered throughout the State with most located near our State lines. The planting of these locations using both potted materials and seed added nearly 200 new acres of native plantings. Through hard work and good planning the work was accomplished ahead of schedule