Share your vision for the Thompson Road Farm! What activities would you enjoy? What features are important to you? Send your ideas to [email protected]
TLC preserves 300+ acres that will become the keystone park for a local community – our largest land preservation project ever.
In early March 2022, TLC acquired a 323-acre farm property in the Village of Bull Valley. The acquisition will create new public open space, preserve an equestrian trail network cherished by the community, and protect 274 acres of natural areas, safeguarding water quality in one of the region’s highest quality streams.
This property is Thompson Road Farm. The story of how it came to be protected is inspiring and represents TLC’s work to preserve land for life in McHenry County.
Thompson Road Farm (TRF), now protected by The Land Conservancy, will become a new public park in the Village of Bull Valley park system. TLC will begin stewardship on the property this year, working to restore the site’s natural lands, and will hold the conservation easement on the property in perpetuity to ensure that Thompson Road Farm remains public open space for future generations.
Another reason to celebrate: this is the largest land acquisition in TLC’s history, both in terms of property size and capital. Thompson Road Farm is truly a once-in-a-generation project for TLC and represents an exciting chapter in our 30-year history. It’s the type of project that shows just how much TLC can achieve in support of a community vision. However, we still have funds to raise both to cover the costs and to support ongoing restoration of this ecological treasure. You can support this project right now by making a donation to TLC at the link below.
There is so much good news to share about the future of Thompson Road Farm, but we must begin by acknowledging the hard work of our dedicated partners who made this project possible.
The Thompson Road Farm Project
In the summer of 2020, for sale signs went up at the Thompson Road Farm site, and right away, we sprung into action. TLC started talking to people at the Village of Bull Valley to get information on the property and learned a number of community partners had been talking about the future of the farm. TLC joined the conversation to gather perspectives and visions for the property. This conversation–this partnership–became the Thompson Road Farm Project.
Keeping the conversation going during a pandemic hasn’t always been easy, but TLC worked with the goal of protecting this special site. One of the benefits of partnering with a land trust like TLC is balancing the organizing with creative thinking around land preservation and the determination to see projects through to completion.
From the beginning, it was always a question of how to make this happen–not if it could. We explored a number of strategies for protection before settling on the plan: TLC would shoulder the acquisition and initial management with the goal of converting it to a park before the property is formally transferred debt-free to the Village of Bull Valley.
Throughout the process, the Thompson Road Farm Project has been guided by voices from our community, each representing unique perspectives and interests –but all have the shared goal of preserving this land. They include Emily Berendt, President, Village of Bull Valley; Patrick Skvoretz, President Bull Valley Riding Club; Nicola and John Birch, Deo Gloria Farm and Bull Valley Riding Club members; Elaine Ramesh Ph.D JD, Chair, Equestrian Coalition of McHenry County; TLC Board members Mark Newton and Ders Anderson, and TLC’s Executive Director, Lisa Haderlein.
Preserving Connections Old and New
Thompson Road Farm is a site steeped in history. Once part of the Thompson Family homestead in the 1800s, this property has remained agricultural land for the past 200 years. By the 1960s, the property had passed to the Jung Family, including Bull Valley Riding Club organizer Nancy Jung, who founded the equestrian club on the property in 1963.
To this day, TRF anchors a network of private equestrian trails that stretch across the Bull Valley area. The farm has nearly five miles of existing “heritage trails” that will be preserved and incorporated in the future park as mixed-use trails. That will not only allow for horseback riding to continue, but also add hiking, walking, snowshoeing, trail running and more!
There will be many ways to both experience the vastness of the land and to get up close to see the site’s plants, wetlands, and different ecosystems. The farm features scenic, rolling terrain and provides natural views from almost every area of the property–making it a great inspiration for artists and photographers. A public viewing area will be created along Thompson Road for wildlife viewing, including the seasonally resident sandhill cranes. And plans are in the works to make Thompson Road Farm a learning landscape by engaging students and groups with educational programs.
Land Protection Priorities
It was land itself that brought the TRF partners together, specifically to preserve the site’s rich ecology. The farm’s 274 acres of natural areas help enhance water quality for Boone Creek, one of Illinois’ true ecological treasures. Boone Creek is considered a high-quality cold water creek, so protecting Thompson Road Farm means safeguarding the water quality found in the creek today. By restoring a functioning wetland system to the property, the natural areas will better filter and manage the water that eventually flows into the creek.
The Boone Creek watershed, which drains 23 square miles across McHenry County, is also fed by the high concentration of Illinois Nature Preserves on private property. Legally designated by the state, Illinois Nature Preserves protect the state’s finest woodlands, prairies, and wetlands for people, science, and nature.
Thompson Road Farm adds this vibrant local network of protected green spaces. Set in Bull Valley, TRF will join a larger system of nature preserves and private conservation easements including Boone Creek Fen, Gladstone Fen, and Boloria Fen State Natural Area sites, all within a two-mile radius of the farm.
Another exciting part of the story is that TRF protects 100+ acres of peatland. Given that peat soils comprise just 3 percent of the Earth’s land area, a project like this that preserves and restores over 100 acres of peat is actually a huge deal.
Restoration of degraded peatlands is one of the highest priorities for mitigating the effects of climate change. Peat soils naturally absorb and retain large amounts of carbon, and even soils that have been degraded by agricultural drainage and hydrologic changes hold great potential to recover once a healthy water cycle is reestablished. Although the peatlands were farmed until recently, there is high potential for restoring this globally rare ecosystem.
TRF also adds to the Village of Bull Valley’s Fleming Road Natural Heritage Corridor, created 10 years ago in a similar partnership between the Village and TLC. Not only does Thompson Road Farm build on this legacy, but it shows how TLC can support large, visionary community projects across McHenry County. When we partner on land protection projects like this, we commit for perpetuity, and look forward to the long-term community partnership in restoring this property in the coming years.
A Vision for the Future
We are so excited to welcome you, your family, friends and community to Thompson Road Farm, and there will be many opportunities for you to experience this special place. We’ll be hosting tours and public meetings so you can provide input as plans for the site take shape. And we’re hoping to open the property’s hiking and walking trails later this year!
All of this is to say that there is a lot of work ahead and we need your help. We’ve come a long way in protecting Thompson Road Farm for perpetuity, but our work has only begun – and now we need you to get involved.
Please share your ideas: let us know what you want to see from a future park. Help shape the vision by telling us what types of events you’d like to hold here, and let us know how you want to spend time at a place like Thompson Road Farm. Be sure you and your friends are connected with us on social media – we will be sharing ways you can provide input on Facebook and Instagram.
Please donate: this is the largest acquisition in TLC’s history and we still have funds to raise both to cover the costs and to support ongoing restoration of this ecological treasure. You can support this project right now by making a donation to TLC.
And finally, please tell everyone about this project: we are so excited to welcome you to this property, to hear your perspectives on how it can best serve our community, and to get more people involved. Everything we do at TLC is for the benefit of the public and we need voices in our community for conservation. If you’re passionate about preserving the places you love and care about the future of your community, please become a member of TLC if you’re not already.
Thompson Road Farm represents everything we do at TLC – bringing people together, partnering with communities, sharing visionary ideas – and protecting special places for life in McHenry County.
The Land Conservancy is grateful for the generous support of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for providing a grant to support acquisition of Thompson Road Farm.