Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 Will County Fair

The 2014 Will County Fair begins Wednesday, August 20th and continues through Sunday, August 24, 2014.  The fair opens at 10:00 am on Wednesday and 8:00 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.  Admission is $4, admission is free for children under 10. For a full schedule of events, entertainment and livestock judging, go here.

Wheat at the Will County Fair
Baby animal farm at the Will County Farm Bureau Tent

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Run, Yoga, Cycle Program August 16, 2014 in Beecher


Check out this program from the Forest Preserve District of Will County, registration info here:

"The Forest Preserve District of Will County will offer triple the fitness fun with “Run, Cycle and Yoga,” a new program being offered from 8 to 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 16 at Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 S. Dutton Road, Beecher. 

The “tri-yogathon” features a 3-mile trail run followed by a challenging 6-mile bike ride, ending with a restorative yoga workout. Participants should be able to run 3 miles on a limestone trail and ride a bike on a road route that’s part asphalt and part gravel.

The program is part of the “eco rec” movement, which is designed to blend nature and fitness, said Kate Caldwell, an interpretive specialist for the District.

“We’re getting people moving, but it’s out in nature and it involves recreation and definitely exercise,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Bob Bryerton, facility coordinator for Plum Creek Nature Center, said program participants will enjoy the woods, streams and meadows of Goodenow Grove as they work out.

“The setting is really beautiful and it provides a great backdrop for running and biking,” he said. “Having the yoga portion in the nature center takes full advantage of the amenities of the site.”

The free program is for ages 18 and older. Registration is required. Call 708-946-2216."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

O'Dekirk Advocates Truck Bridge Over Des Plaines from CenterPoint to I-80


August 6, 2014

Joliet mayoral candidate and current City Councilman Bob O'Dekirk released a press release yesterday regarding a bridge over the Des Plaines River to relieve traffic on local roads such as Route 53 in Joliet.  O'Dekirk states he was contacted by union officials claiming to have a plan and private money to build a toll bridge over the Des Plaines to connect CenterPoint with I-80 at Houboult Road.  Full press release from O'Dekirk:

"On the heels of yet another semitrailer rollover on I-55 Monday afternoon, Joliet District 2 Councilman, Bob O’Dekirk is calling for an expedited plan to build a proposed truck bypass bridge from CenterPoint to I-80 at Houbolt Rd.

"The horrific traffic accident on I-55 last week is a call to action” O’Dekirk said, “these types of accidents and numerous rollovers on both I-55 and I-80 won’t stop until we solve the truck congestion problem plaguing Joliet and the surrounding area.”   O'Dekirk would like to move a proposed project forward that has private financing and will not cost the city. 

Last fall, O’Dekirk was contacted by several union officials who shared a preliminary plan for a truck toll bridge from the CenterPoint intermodal to the interstate.  The plan was specific in detail and included proposed private sources of money, which would be used to pay for the project.  A toll would be paid by trucks, while allowing regular, non-commercial traffic to access it for free.  Private investment and toll revenue would pay for the project.  Ultimately, Joliet would take ownership of the toll bridge and all revenues would go to city coffers.

“While this plan has languished, the area around CenterPoint Intermodal has continued to be plagued by numerous traffic accidents involving trucks accessing the facility causing numerous fatalities,” O’Dekirk explained, “and I’m willing to lead the way in forging a partnership with this private group to get it done and get it done now.”

O’Dekirk also said the historic Rt. 66 corridor would benefit from this project and that would be an economic gain for the region.  Recently, a Rt. 66 Association of Illinois preservation committee member and historian, John Weiss, warned that the ongoing glut of truck traffic will discourage tourists and motorists from visiting the Rt. 66 historic area.  He said tourist dollars will continue to be lost if nothing is done.

O'Dekirk joins other elected officials, notably State Rep Larry Walsh Jr., in citing the need to relieve the congestion caused by the influx of trucks on local roads. He invites Walsh and other area elected officials and community leaders to join his team to move this project forward. " 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stephens Raises Money for the Wounded Warrior Project


By Mary Baskerville

ELWOOD—Ron Stephens recently walked from Manhattan, Illinois to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery as part of his 350 mile walk to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.  Stephens, a 66-year old Vietnam Army Veteran, has walked about 20 intermittent days since Memorial Day.

Ron Stephens and his wife, Lisa, at the point along Hoff Road where the Elwood’s escort met the Manhattan escort. 

Manhattan and Elwood’s emergency services, police, and fire escorts were exceptional, he said. “These guys have been so helpful.” When he expressed his thanks, he said that they simply responded, “It’s our flag too.


“God Bless them. The simple faith that people have. It’s symbolic: It’s our country; it’s our flag. And what more worthy cause than to take care of our wounded soldiers?”


As he walked along Hoff Road, he learned the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery had been carved out of the old Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. “It’s beautiful, beautiful country.”


He is the son of a sailor who served in World War II, “and my mother was a riveter for McDonnell Aircraft.” He still has her small certification card showing her hours of training. His father wanted to join the war effort. When he was 32, he tried to volunteer, but was told that as the father of three young children he should stay home. When he was 33, he was told “Earl, we won’t take you.” But, when he was 34, he was told, “Earl, we need you.”


He saw “fighting in the Pacific, and my mother, in the meantime, was a riveter.”   


Stephens most often walks alone.  “I’m usually out here by myself, and understand, first of all, the beauty and honor of living in the America, and I have thoughts from my past.
I walk with memories.”


He recalls those he served with, and those that died. The corporal in his unit was killed in the same battle that he was in. “My radio man . . . was killed by the same bullet that hit me.”


“So, I think about those guys. It can be a very emotional and somber occasion walking out here.”


He was combat wounded in 1970 and spent 18-months in military hospitals recovering from the shots, first at Scott Air Force Base in St. Claire County and later at the Brooke Army Hospital. 

His son, a West Point graduate, was wounded in Iraq where he served for 40 months. His son-in-law served 12 months in Afghanistan.


The number of veterans needing help is why he walks, he said. “The young men and women—and there are a lot---serving their country proudly and quietly."


0n Memorial Day, Stephens began his walks, pledging to walk one mile for every $100 dollars raised by 16 Doc’s Pharmacy stores and Dale’s Southlake Pharmacy in Decatur, where Stephens works on weekends. Cardinal Health Foundation, a pharmaceutical distributor, is matching every dollar.


At the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood he logged in with 293 miles.  With $35,000 raised, Stephens will walk the remaining 57 miles of his 350 mile commitment near his home in Greenville.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Working and Learning Laboratory this Summer at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

By Ann Baskerville

Federal Legislation transferring land that was the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant from the Department of the Army to the National Forest Service in 1995 outlined scientific, environmental and land use education and research as founding purposes for Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.  Midewin is fulfilling its mission this summer, partnering with colleges, high schools, and conservation groups to bring together young people from diverse backgrounds for a common purpose: restoring the native prairie at Midewin.

North Lawndale College Prep and YCC students remove invasive species at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie


High School Programs
Midewin hosts two summer work programs for high school students, the Youth Conservation Corps and the National Forest Foundation North Lawndale College Prep High School Program.

The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is made up of six high students from communities near Midewin, including Wilmington, Kankakee, Braidwood, Coal City, Essex, and Minooka.   YCC is a federal program that provides summer employment for youths ages 15-18.  YCC is an eight-week program and the students are paid minimum wage.

During their first week of work, YCC students learned what lay beyond the imposing Arsenal fence. One YCC student said that although she had driven past Midewin on Route 53, she didn't know what the land behind the huge fence was or why it was fenced off.  Another YCC student from Wilmington had gained a basic understanding of Midewin from school field trips and hearing about the "Old Joliet Arsenal."

Students learned the Arsenal was now the Nation's first tallgrass prairie, and that they would be working to restore native prairie plants.   Although students said they did not know what an invasive plant was prior to working at Midewin, they saw first-hand how invasives quickly reproduce and crowd out native plants.  Students pulled invasives such as sweet white clover, amur honeysuckle, and autumn olive. Students also collected seeds from Midewin's native seed beds, planted native plants in restoration areas, and cut shrubs. A student from Kankakee said she is learning "team-building, communication skills, and how to work with others."  Another student said this job "was more than I expected, in a good way, Midewin staff don't just teach us what to do, they teach us why we are doing what we do to eventually restore the prairie."
Putting invasive species in vehicle for disposal at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie


The North Lawndale College Prep High School Program consists of 16 students from the public charter school in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood.  The North Lawndale Program is funded through the National Forest Foundation, which secured financing to pay the North Lawndale students from Exelon.  Students are paid by the National Forest Foundation at the rate of $10.50 an hour and the program runs for six weeks. The National Forest Foundation's partnership with North Lawndale College Prep led to the first crew working at Midewin in 2012.

Two North Lawndale College Prep science teachers drive the students to Midewin each day, and, along with Midewin staff, teach and lead the work crews.  Teacher Kiel Smith said that upon first viewing Midewin, one student said, "it looks like we are driving into Jurassic Park." Jurassic Park is a pretty apt comparison, since, Smith said, there are spots in Midewin where students can turn around 360 degrees and see nothing built by humans.  Viewing a landscape that contrasts so sharply with the urban streetscape they routinely see is especially meaningful, Smith said, considering that some of the students, although living a few miles from the lakeshore, have never seen Lake Michigan. 

The program also provides students with an opportunity to gain marketable work skills and interact with scientists and students from more rural backgrounds.  Smith said the youth unemployment rate for kids in the North Lawndale area is near 100%, and those that do find work typically work in restaurants.  The program allows both YCC and North Lawndale students to gain skills such as identifying plants, working with Midewin scientists, seeing a task through to completion, and helping to carry out a restoration plan, skills that will likely help the students' resumes stand out.  Smith and his fellow teacher Luke McShane also use the van rides from Chicago to Midewin and back to discuss professional conduct and to reflect on each day's accomplishments and challenges.  Students board the van at 6:00 a.m. in North Lawndale to reach Midewin by 7:30 a.m..  Since North Lawndale College Prep is a charter school and students attend from throughout the city, some students wake up at 4:00 a.m. to travel from 63rd and the Dan Ryan to meet the van at their school.

Beyond gaining skills for a resume, Smith says, although apprehensive at first about the bugs and cows--asking, just to be safe, "will the cows try to eat us?"--- the students are now taking ownership of the restoration project.  Smith related that by the last few weeks of the program, the students were ending breaks on their own and continuing on with the day's plan rather than waiting for an adult to prompt them.  Smith reminds students they are building a prairie that can be enjoyed by all Midewin visitors.  Smith tells students: "you can take your kids out here 50 years from now, and no one will remember your names, but they will see the work that you did."

Tania Tribble graduated from North Lawndale College Prep and is working at Midewin during her summer break from Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.  Tribble worked at Midewin last year as well and came back because she enjoyed working on the prairie.  Tribble said her first thought when arriving at Midewin was, "wow, this is a very big prairie."  Tribble stated: "Open land where I come from is not that big, maybe a block or two, this is a much larger area of open space and I feel like when I work here I am doing something for the environment."  Tribble said working at Midewin "teaches you leadership, how to take charge of a project, encouraging other people and saying 'let's go, let's get this,' and listening to everyone as well."

In addition to learning the science of restoration, Tibble is fascinated by Midewin's history.  Tibble thinks the remnants of the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant--bunkers, ammunition warehouses--are "amazing, every time we drive back by the bunkers, I can imagine the bunkers full of ammunition and the trains" that ran through the arsenal to transport the ammunition for the war effort. Tibble and all of the students toured the bunkers and viewed graffiti on the inside of the bunkers, where workers signed their names with dates from the 1940s.

Joliet Army Ammunition Bunkers in Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie:



Antonio is currently a junior at North Lawndale College Prep and plans to pursue pre-med studies in college.  Antonio said he enjoys learning about the science of plants, and that before working at Midewin and learning to differentiate species of prairie plants, "I would have assumed it was all just grass."  Antonio said he enjoys working with the Midewin staff because "they are nice and helpful, and they care about people and not just the job."  Antonio said his favorite part of working at Midewin this summer is meeting new people, "people from different parts of Illinois and not just Chicago."

Students from YCC and North Lawndale both stated that at the start of the summer, the two groups were separated and both groups felt a little awkward around the "new kids."  After some team-building activities and working on projects, however, students said it didn't even seem like they were two different groups.  In addition, the students make connections during educational field trips every Friday.  Students said they were fossil hunting---finding part of a jelly fish---in Braidwood and also visited a reptile museum.

In addition to the high school programs, Midewin is hosting two college students through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association (SCA).  SCA supplies the students with housing in Wilmington, which was a familiar setting for Iowa State University student Erica Anderson since she is originally from a small town in Iowa.  Anderson is majoring in animal ecology and said she is "learning a lot about plants, the ecosystem, and wildlife in the Midwest."  Anderson said her best memory from her summer at Midewin is bird watching and interacting with Midewin scientists such as botanist Jennifer Durkin.  Finally, three students from Northeastern Illinois are working on restoration projects.  Two of those students are particpating through a partnership between Midewin and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.   Pedro Solis is studying Earth Science at Northeastern and learned of the summer internship at Midewin through a professor who is also a United States Deparment of Agriculture Regional Coordinator.   Solis said faculty do a good job letting students know about internship and job opportunities.

Rick Short, Midewin's Public Services Team Leader, said the Midewin staff greatly enjoys having the students at Midewin for the summer.  Short said the students bring an enthusiastic desire to work and learn and that students are making a difference with tasks day in and day out.  Short said the students help Midewin fulfill its mission of restoration and education and will hopefully spread the word about Midewin to friends and family seeking educational and recreational opportunities.  For more info on Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, go here.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Agricultural Practices workshop to be held in Will County


University of Illinois Extension Class on Food Safety:

"Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) in Will County
Good Agricultural Practices Workshop
July 29, 2014, Register by Thursday July 24th
9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Will County
100 Manhattan Drive
Joliet, IL 60443
Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) workshop is being offered by University of Illinois Extension. Food safety begins with sound practices on the farm, especially with fresh vegetable and fruit produce that is eaten raw. Recent outbreaks of food borne illnesses involving both fresh and processed food products have heightened public concern about food safety. Increasingly more consumers want to know how their food is grown. Most fresh produce retailers now require the producers who supply them to have 3rd party audits to verify safe food production and handling practices on the farm. The recently signed bill on food safety overhaul underscores the growing emphasis on food safety and the need for fresh produce farmers to produce a safe product.
 This workshop has benefits for all producers, retailers and wholesalers in supermarkets, Farmers’ Markets, or for business owners in service industries. In particular, the GAPs workshop will equip producers with the knowledge to put together a written food safety plan. By becoming food safety compliant, producers will stay competitive in the specialty produce business.
The following topics will be covered:
·         GAPs produce safety impacts
·         Post harvest produce handling
·         Water quality and testing
·         Auditing farms for GAPs/food safety
·         Soil management/manure management
·         Worker health and hygiene
Cost per participant, including lunch, is $10. Pre-registration is required online through our website, http://web.extension.illinois.edu/gkw  by July 24. With this online registration opportunity, you may use a credit card and immediately pay and confirm your registration. Online, you may also choose to pay by check which will tentatively register you until your check is received in the office. Additionally, you may call the office at 815/727-9296 register by credit card or visit the office to pay in person."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elwood Semi-Truck Traffic and Road Restrictions

The Village of Elwood, Illinois held a special meeting July 23, 2014 at 7 p.m. to discuss "AN ORDINANCE REPEALING ORDINANCE NO. 1027 ENTITLED “AN
ORDINANCE APPROVING THE MODIFICATION OF TRAFFIC PATTERNS
AND IMPOSING RESTRICTIONS UPON USAGE OF CERTAIN VILLAGE
ROADS”

Elwood had passed an ordinance in May restricting truck traffic on certain Village of Elwood roads in an attempt to reduce the number of trucks driving through Elwood and using U.S. Route 53.  Because trucks can currently only enter CenterPoint-Joliet from the south, trucks were getting off I80, coming south on 53, and then going through Elwood to reach the South Entrance to CenterPoint-Joliet. Elwood's May '14 ordinance restricted trucks from using CenterPoint Drive as a through street, among other restrictions. CenterPoint, Union Pacific,and APL Logistics brought a federal suit to remove the road restrictions, arguing they violated interstate commerce laws.


At the July 23, '14 meeting, the Village passed an ordinance repealing Ordinance 1027.   Elwood said now that it has repealed the ordinance, instead of spending hundreds of thousands it would have likely cost to argue against CenterPoint et al in court, the Village will focus its efforts on an August 20, 2014 meeting of the Illinois Commerce Commission.  There an administrative law judge will make recommendations for improving safety at the Walter Strawn Railroad Crossing.

The Village of Elwood posted a video to YouTube showing a truck breaking through the railroad gate.  According to the Village of Elwood, trucks broke the railroad gates at Walter Strawn 47 times in 2013.

Will County News spoke with Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes regarding truck traffic in and around Elwood:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Secure the Border Rally held by Homer Lockport Tea Party


A group of citizens stood on the 127th Street bridge over I-355 holding signs reading "Secure Our Border", "Stop the Illegal Alien Invasion" and "A Nation Without Border is Not a Nation."  The rally was publicized on the Lockport-Homer Tea Party Website.  A woman named Stephanie from Lemont stated she organized the gathering because she felt something needed to be done to secure the border.  Stephanie stated "right now this country has a jobless situation, we have to straighten out our own country."  She stated she is not against helping children who have obviously suffered emotionally because of their experiences, but "it has to stop somewhere."

Will County Board Member Stephen Balich was also in attendance and stated we are experiencing "an invasion of the US by illegals" and that some of the unaccompanied minors could have gang affiliations and  "we have enough gang bangers already in the United States."  Balich went on to say the unaccompanied minors are "bringing diseases into this country....and they are coming to the Chicago area."  

US Senator Dick Durbin spoke recently on the issue:




People hold sign saying "Secure Our Border" on the 127th Street Bridge over I-355 in Lemont, Illinois 

"Secure our Border" Rally organized through the Homer Lockport Tea Party 


"Secure our Border" Rally organized through the Homer Lockport Tea Party 

"Secure our Border" Rally organized through the Homer Lockport Tea Party 

"Secure our Border" Rally organized through the Homer Lockport Tea Party 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014 Will County Threshermen's Show at Round Barn Farm in Manhattan

The Will County Threshermen's Association will host its annual Summer Show Thursday, July 17th through Sunday, July 20th, 2014 at the Round Barn Farm Park in Manhattan, Illinois.  Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. 

Antique farming enthusiasts will display how steam-powered machines served the needs of farmers in the early 1900's by: sawing logs:


Separating wheat from chaff:


A wide variety of antique tractors will be on display:


Live plowing demonstrations are also planned:


The show is a great way to bring history to life for younger children.  For example, parents could create "where was it made?" scavenger hunt for kids.  Parents could ask their kids to look on each piece of antique machinery and write down where it was manufactured.

For a full schedule, go here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Illiana Expressway Meeting in Wilmington July 16, 2014

Will County Board Member Ragan Freitag is hosting a meeting on the Illiana Expressway at the Wilmington City Hall Wednesday, July 16, 2014 from 5-7 p.m..  The County's ombudsman will be in attendance, as will State Representative John Anthony (R-Morris).

"Residents have many questions about the proposed $1.3 billion Illiana project that will cut across Will
County and impact property owners in its path," said Freitag. "Elected officials at both the local and
state level should provide opportunities and forums for their residents' questions to get answered and
their voices to be heard. This is the purpose of next week's meeting in Wilmington."

According to Will County's Press Release on the meeting:
 "Last August, Will County appointed Michael Hansen to serve as ombudsman for the project and to
represent the interests of property owners affected by the proposed Illiana in dealings with the Illinois
Department of Transportation. The ombudsman's job is to facilitate clear communication between the
state and local residents. Since his appointment, Hansen has been attending informational meetings
like the one planned in Wilmington. Those landowners in the Illiana's path unable to attend next
week's meeting can contact Hansen at 815-744-9500, or mikehansen@mikehansenlaw.com."