Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food Stamp Usage in Will County, Illinois has increased 45% since 2007

According to a New York Times interactive map published today, food stamp utilization in Will County has increased 45% since 2007.  The map can be viewed here , move your mouse over Will County to see the county's food stamp statistics.  According to the map, Will County's food stamp statistics include:
Percentage on food stamps:
All people: 7%
Children: 12%
Whites: 3%
Blacks: 21%

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Will County Environmental Network will meet Nov. 12th


The Will County Environmental Network will meet at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, November 12  at Laraway School in Joliet. The regular meeting was moved to Thursday because of the Veteran’s Day holiday.
Important agenda items include an update on the Network’s Roundtable Special Report that is being distributed and continued development of the electronic roundtable. A copy is available at this link .
Other key agenda items include updates on Vulcan Material’s proposed expansion of quarrying, expanding to the west on acreage that stretches to the west and Brandon Road.
Everyone interested in working to protect & defend the environment is invited to attend this meeting.

Joliet Arsenal Oral History

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, located between Elwood and Wilmington,  was created by
federal legislation transferring Joliet Army Ammunition Plant land to the Forest Service in order to create Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

The Joliet Arsenal Ammunition Plant was created when the Federal Government told landowners living in the Arsenal's footprint their land would be sold to the government in order to create the ammunition plant that would produce bombs for the Allied effort.

This 1909 Map of Florence Township documents the farms and schools that were eventually sold to the Federal Government for the purpose of creating the Joliet Arsenal.

These newspaper clippings from 1941 record how much farmers were paid by the government for their land.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a man whose family's Florence Township-farm was sold to the government for the Arsenal.  He remembers his family was told they had 30 days to leave.  He remembered attending many farm sales in the Arsenal footprint, where farmers sold farm machinery they  either no longer needed or did not want to transport.

He also remembered a self-proclaimed "lobbyist" came around telling area farmers if they would all give him 100 dollars, he would go to Washington and lobby on their behalf against the arsenal taking their farmland.  Some farmers gave the man 100 dollars, after a few days, he was never heard or seen again.

He also remembered some of his neighbors moved to Momence and Manteno.  He remembered some families moved their homes to Symerton, the only town in Florence Township.  Symerton was not in the arsenal footprint, it is about half-a mile south of the arsenal's, and now, Midewin's boundary.

Symerton, Pop. About 106

  The houses are still in Symerton to this day:

Cutting through the middle of Symerton, the Wauponsee Glacial Trail--a Forest Preserve District of Will County bike-path--lies along the former Wabash Railroad, visible on the 1909 plat:

The Wauponsee Glacial Trail runs from Joliet to Symerton.  Bike riders on the trail ride along the eastern edge of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie from Manhattan to Symerton. 

Midewin is a resource unique to Will County.  It is mentioned in many regional planning documents.  For example, a plan for the Village of Manhattan, Illinois contains many references to Midewin.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prairie Creek: Will County Waterway

Published in 1878 by William Le Baron of Chicago, "The History of Will County, Illinois, containing A History of the County, its Cities, Towns, &c, a Directory of its Real Estate Owners, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men..."  
is a voluminous work (1000 pages detailing everything from Joliet & Marquette's travels to the topography of Will County to biographical sketches of pioneers to census data detailing the population of each township in 1850, 1860, and 1970.  For example, in 1870, there were 875 people living in Florence Township, 644 of whom are categorized as "Native").  The book also references Prairie Creek.

The book notes that Prairie Creek enters the Kankakee River from the northeast in the township of Wilmington.  Along with Forked Creek, Prairie Creek is described as a "considerable streams in times of high water, sometimes becoming impassable where not bridged, but in dry seasons become mere brooks or dry up altogether...all the large streams abound in the times of Indian occupation they were favorite resorts for fishing and trapping...the timber which filled the native groves and bordered the streams consisted of the various varieties of oak, black walnut, hickory, elm, hard and soft maple...there was a large and vigorous growth of fine trees on the first settlement of the county, most of which in a few years fell before the ax of the settler for the purpose of building log homes, rail fences, firewood, etc, and as soon as the saw mills were built, for timber."

Creeks provided pioneer farmers with a way to water their livestock and timber and stone to build their homes and outbuildings.

In the present day, scholars still document the biodiversity of Will County creeks.  For example, in this article  published by the Field Museum of Natural History, the authors note:

"A total of 112 fish species has been recorded in Will County over the past 107 years; six species are endangered or threatened in Illinois, and 11 species are nonnative. River and creek ecosystems are the predominant fish habitat within the county. Each watershed has its own individual story. For example, Exline Slough fishes represent what would have been found in regional prairie sloughs and wetlands prior to conversion of natural lands for agriculture. Some creeks, such as Plum Creek, hold an above-average diversity of fishes but are isolated by dams and environmental degradation. If the fishes in these creeks are eliminated, they would not return because of limited opportunities for recolonization. Riparian wetlands along the Des Plaines and Kankakee rivers serve as nurseries for juvenile fishes. Hickory Creek is one of the most studied creeks in the Midwest, but unfortunately loss in biodiversity is what has been documented. Jackson Creek is reminiscent of Hickory Creek historically. Hopefully it will not suffer the same fate. The greatest threat to Will County fishes is urban sprawl from the city of Chicago and its associated habitat degradation"


Prairie Creek, near Manhattan, Illinois

Prairie Creek is also flows through the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie , the first national tallgrass prairie in the United States.  As such, Midewin staff conduct surveys and research on Prairie Creek, such as this document  which shares the results of that research.

Prairie Creek is also mentioned in Will County Forest Preserve District documents where the District identifies Prairie Creek Bend in Jackson and Manhattan Townships as a Critical Preservation area.

The Wauponsee Glacial Trail goes over Prairie Creek, between Manhattan, Illinois and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.


Prairie Creek is also mentioned in the Village of Manhattan's Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Prairie Creek as Will County continues to see increases in both residential and industrial development.  For example the Manhattan Comprehensive Land Use Plan listed above lays out the Illiana Expressway over what is now Hoff Road.  A road construction project of that magnitude would certainly alter the region bordering Prairie Creek.

Here are some videos of Prairie Creek, near Manhattan, Illinois

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Manhattan Illinois Celebrates with Fun Day Festival

UPDATE: 2012 Fun Day Schedule 

The Village of Manhattan , Illinois celebrated Labor Day Weekend with its Annual Fun Day Festival.  Here are some pictures of the parade:

Manhattan Illinois Fun Day Parade
This vintage Mustang cruised through the Manhattan Parade as a vintage car entry.

Manhattan Illinois Fun Day Parade

Will County Executive Larry Walsh participated in the Manhattan Illinois Fun Day Parade.

Manhattan Illinois Fun Day Parade

The Manhattan Fire Department

Manhattan Illinois Fun Day Parade

Operation Care Package

Manhattan Illinois Fun Day Parade

American Legion Post 935 leads the parade down Manhattan's main street

The Lincoln-Way Central High School Marching Knights also performed:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tea Party Express stops in New Lenox, Illinois

The Joliet Herald News reports that nearly 5,000 people gathered at the New Lenox Village Hall on Monday, September 7th to greet the arrival of the Tea Party Express.  New Lenox, Illinois is a rapidly-growing village near the center of Will County near the I-80 interstate.

The Tea Party Express has a website where you can read about its message.  NPR also did an article on some of the Tea Party Express rallies held in California where several farmers  "protested a 2007 court ruling that cut water allowances to help a small fish that has been declining in numbers."

According to this NPR article, The Tea Party Express is funded by a California Political Action Committee, the "Our Country Deserves Better PAC".

Here is a video of the event that was posted on Youtube:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson Will Hold Telephone Town Hall on Health Care Reform

According to her website, Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson will hold a telephone town hall on health care reform.

Representative Halvorson will hold the telephone town hall on Thursday, September 3rd.

Her website lists a phone number people can call if they would like to participate in the telephone town hall.  There is also a link on Congresswoman Halvorson's website where people can complete a survey regarding health care reform.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Centerpoint Intermodal Construction in Joliet Illinois

Centerpoint Properties is constructing the Centerpoint Intermodal Center-Joliet, Illinois.

Here are some photos of the construction of the project taken near the intersection of Laraway Road and Brandon Road in Joliet, Illinois:
(Click on any of the above photos for a larger view)

Here is a photo of Brandon Rd., several homes on this road were bought by Centerpoint and demolished:

Here is a video of the homes on Brandon Road in Joliet before they were bought and demolished:

Here is a link to the Will County Recorder of Deeds' webpage, where you can search Centerpoint's land transactions.

Other Centerpoint-related links:

Plan on City of Joliet's webpage

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peotone's Will County Fair celebrates Agriculture, Community

The Will County Fair in Peotone, Illinois, concludes today.

The Fair is an annual end-of-summer tradition, dating back to 1903.  Farm families brought crops, livestock, quilts, jams, preserves, garden produce, and baked goods--among other hand-made or hand-raised items--to the fair to "compete" for a coveted Best of Show ribbon:
The Fair is a time to celebrate the end of summer, and the Exhibition Hall overflows with fruit and vegetables painstakingly raised throughout the spring and summer:

Will County 4-Hers  participating in livestock projects exhibit their livestock during the Will County Fair.  4-H is part of the University of Illinois Extension.  Will County 4-Hers involved in livestock production keep records of all expenses involved with raising their livestock, learn disease-control methods, and how to raise livestock for market.  
Will County 4-Hers then have the opportunity to sell their livestock at the Will County 4-H Auction:

Local businesses and politicians buy the animals, often far above market price.  

Kay Hoffman of Land 'n Lots Realty was honored this year during the 14th annual Will County 4-H Livestock Auction for her participation as a buyer and leading in the number of animals purchased from young 4-Hers.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scenes from the Will County Fair!

The Will County Fair continues through Sunday, August 30 in Peotone, Illinois.  In its 106th year, the Will County Fair features exhibits such as: livestock, grains, woodworking, photography, and quilts.  Exhibitors such as 4-H youth and local citizens bring their projects to the fair, many year after year.

Click on any of the photos below to enlarge:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Joliet mentioned on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann

During  MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann,  MSNBC analyst Lawrence O'Donnell referenced Joliet, IL, while discussing health-care town halls held across the country today.  

O'Donnell was asked by Olbermann: "What should we make of Mr. Obama in New Hampshire, skeptics reasonable to his face, others with vile things to say, sort of at the perimeter."

O'Donnell responded: "Well now you see why Senators want to be President.  If Barack Obama was doing a town hall meeting in Joliet today, as the Senator from Illinois, he'd probably be getting shouted down a bit, he'd probably be running into Arlen Spector troubles..."

View the entire clip of this segment on health care town halls here (Joliet is mentioned around 7:40):

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Midewin's Pioneer Cemeteries offer glimpse of farming past

Klingler Pioneer Cemetery, on the grounds of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, offers a glimpse of Will County's farming past.  Klingler Cemetery is one of six pioneer cemeteries maintained by the National Forest Service.  Midewin's website also offers pictures, maps, and an index of everyone buried within the pioneer cemeteries.

The Klingler Pioneer Cemetery is located on the east side of Midewin, just off the Wauponsee Glacial Bike Trail, which lies on the old Wabash Railroad, viewable on the map below.

Midewin consists of land that was the Joliet Arsenal Ammunition Plant.  The federal government bought approximately 450 small family farms, consisting of about 40,000 acres  in order to create the Joliet Arsenal.

Below is the newspaper record of the sale of the Klingler land to the USA.

The Midewin trail to the cemetery is lined with hedge trees, which were planted by pioneer farmers in order to have lumber, and some considered the hedge a living fence.

The cemeteries stand as a reminder of the people who had created communities on the prairie.  As seen in this 1909 plat book, several schools and residences existed on the land that would become the Joliet Arsenal.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gay Rights Rally in Downtown Joliet

The Community Alliance & Action Network (CAAN) and the Gay Liberation Network of Chicago held a LGBTQ Rights Rally in Downtown Joliet in order to bring their message of equality to the South Suburbs.  Representatives from CAAN, the Gay Liberation Network, Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet
and the Gay Recruiters, a Bloomington, Indiana based LGBT advocacy group attended and spoke at the rally.

C.A.A.N.'s Mission Statement states: "The mission of Community Alliance and Action Network is to build community and personal alliances to alleviate the effects of discrimination one may be subjected to because of sexual orientation and gender identification."

C.A.A.N. hosts many social and educational activities throughout the year.  Check C.A.A.N.'s website for more details. 

Here is a video of the Rally that was posted on YouTube :

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Will County Wheat Harvest and Annual Steam Show

As Will County farmers continue to harvest their wheat crop, the Will County Thresherman's Association is hosting their annual Tractor, Steam & Gas Engine Show July 16-19th.

Many agricultural enthusiasts bring antique tractors and steam engines to the show in order to demonstrate how antique tractors work.  For more detail on what is available at the show, click here.