The last year passed so quickly! Before too much time goes by, we want to give you an update on this beautiful site.
If you drive down Thompson Road in Bull Valley, you should see some changes. Much of the brush along the road has been cleared, so you can see the property through the remaining trees. The non-native trees will come down eventually, but this is a good start.
The front field will be seeded to prairie this year, and a small parking area will be installed, along with a path from the parking area to the farm lane. The lane will serve as the main path through the property. It connects to nearly five miles of rustic trails that go through the woods and along the field borders. Once the parking area is installed, the site will be open to hikers.
There’s a plan to install an accessible loop trail about 1/10 of a mile long and viewing platform from the parking area to a high spot that will offer views across most of the 275 acres. Once funding comes together, the viewing platform will include two viewing scopes and one of them will be handicap accessible. The viewing platform will also offer interpretive information about the project and the ecology of the site.
McHenry County Audubon Society members have conducted seasonal bird survey at the site for many years, and those will continue, plus they started a grassland bird survey series this year to help document the use of the property by grassland bird species like bobolinks, dickcissels and meadowlarks. Ground-nesting grassland birds need large contiguous areas of grassland to help keep their nests safe from predators like raccoons and coyotes.
To help conservationists learn more about the benefits of hay farming for grassland birds, we are working with a local farm family, Mike and Dave Laufer, who will grow conservation hay. The first cutting each year will take place after July 15 to give the grassland birds a chance to fledge their young from the ground nests. Audubon will be collecting data to help document the best timing for mowing the fields. This approach has worked well on smaller fields at the May-Seidler Easement property in Alden, as well as the Ridgestone subdivision easement in Bull Valley.
Finally, when we closed on the property March 8, 2022, we took out a $1.65 million loan. The loan balance is down to $193,000 through a second grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the sale of about 48 acres to conservation buyers at the south end of the property, and funds donated by members of the community.
We still need about $150,000 to finish paying off the loan by July 1, 2024. Any help you can provide will make a difference! Thank you.