SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the state will enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Forest Preserve District of Will County and the Lockport Township Park District for management of the Prairie Bluff Preserve in Will County. The agreement will allow the local governments to manage the Prairie Bluff property to restore native land, increase protection of the state’s threatened and endangered species, and create additional recreational opportunities for the region. The Lockport Township Park District board approved the agreement today. The agreement was approved last week by the Forest Preserve District.
“Protecting Prairie Bluff Preserve means protecting water quality and habitats for threatened and endangered species. It also provides more recreational opportunities in Northeastern Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The intergovernmental agreement will allow state-owned property in Will County to be managed by the Forest Preserve District of Will County and the Lockport Township Park District to protect the space from development.
The agreement allows the Forest Preserve District to restore their portion of the property to native prairie, where it will be preserved for scientific and educational purposes. The Park District will convert their portion of the property into recreational areas.
“Everyone wins,” said Mike Pasteris, Executive Director, Forest Preserve District of Will County. The citizens of Will County get needed open space in a part of the county where none seemed available. Endangered species and the unique Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve are provided additional protection and assistance, and all of this is accomplished at literally no cost to Will County through the cooperative efforts of the State of Illinois.”
“This represents an incredible opportunity for the Lockport Township Park District and the Forest Preserve District of Will County,” said Lockport Township Park District Board President Jim Louch Jr. “We are very fortunate to have two very capable people representing us in Springfield. Representative Brent Hassert had the vision to save a very ecologically sensitive parcel of property for the enjoyment of his constituents for years to come. He also had the diligence to endure a five-year battle for this worthwhile project. Senator Wilhelmi supported Representative Hassert’s vision for this important action and fully understands the need for recreation and open space in his district. We are also thankful for the support shown by Mayor Churnovic and the Crest Hill City Council. The true winners here are the residents of Lockport Township and the surrounding area. Once developed, the activities offered will enrich the recreational opportunities for our residents.”
Management of the Prairie Bluff site is also critical to protection of aquifers that supply groundwater to the Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve, and residents in the area. The preserve is home to several federally listed species, natural communities and wildlife, including the federally-listed endangered Hines’ Emerald Dragonfly and the Leafy Prairie Clover, which is known to exist in only eight locations in Illinois. A number of State-listed species are also found at Lockport Prairie, including the Blanding’s Turtle and the Spotted Turtle.
The 730-acre Prairie Bluff Preserve is comprised of two parcels – a 558-acre parcel owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and a 172-acre parcel owned by the Illinois State Police (ISP).
The ISP will continue to maintain a small portion of the property for an existing firing range, which will include a buffer zone to protect against public access.
“The Prairie Bluff Reserve has been a goal of mine for five years. I commend the Governor for seeing the value of this preservation of open space. This land will be an asset to the people of the 85th district,” said Rep. Brent Hassert (R-Romeoville)
“I commend Representative Hassert for his work on this project the past five years. Due to the rapid growth in Will County, it is important to preserve open space, especially when such preservation will help protect our water supply and natural habitats,” said Sen. Arthur “AJ” Wilhelmi (D-Joliet).
“The Prairie Bluff Preserve is another example of the state’s commitment to preserving Illinois’ natural heritage,” said Sam Flood, IDNR Acting Director. “With the support of our community partners, we’re providing protection to threatened and endangered species, and protecting the quality of life for the people of Will County.”
Conceptual plans for the site were created under the Prairie Bluff Preserve site restoration and site development plans developed by the Forest Preserve District and the Park District and approved by the state. Any fundamental change to the intent or purpose of the site must be submitted to the IDNR and ISP for review and approval.