Residents cast their vote on future of Trim Creek - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Residents cast their vote on future of Trim Creek

Watershed planning workshop attracts 80 residents from the fast-developing small towns of Beecher and Grant Park in Will and Kankakee counties.

More than 80 residents came together Jan. 11, 2006, to discuss the preservation of Trim Creek, a waterway that runs through southeastern Will and northeastern Kankakee counties. Farmers, residents of the villages of Beecher and Grant Park, and interested residents from surrounding areas attended a public workshop, “The Future of Trim Creek: Sink or Swim?” held at the Grant Park Community Center . The meeting was organized by the Campaign for Sensible Growth, Metropolitan Planning Council, and Openlands as part of an ongoing two-year watershed planning project for the Trim Creek watershed.

Already an area of quick-paced development, the Trim Creek watershed currently is a B-rated (on a scale of A for best through F) stream that runs into the Kankakee River, which is A-rated. However, a stream analysis undertaken for the watershed planning project found that with more development, the stream will support less fish if steps are not taken now to put in place best management practices. Without good planning, more development could degrade the creek through pollutant runoff from streets, alleys or rooftops; and the lack of open space and wetlands for water to infiltrate the land.

Attendees had a chance early on in the workshop to voice their concerns on the future of the area.  For example, 77 percent were concerned about increased flooding due to growth and development; and 86 percent were concerned about the future water quality of Trim Creek.  Yet, optimism was expressed that the communities did have control over their destiny.  A full 69 percent felt confident or extremely confident that something could be done to protect water quality and control flooding in the area.

Dr. Gerould Wilhelm, of the consultant group Conservation Design Forum, presented a quick overview of massive changes to the landscape in Illinois . Before current settlement patterns, most of the water that fell to the earth – and on average, northern Illinois receives 33-inches to 37-inches per year – was absorbed into the ground. But as agriculture, and later development came, and the earth was changed from largely forested or grasslands, more water ran off into the rivers and streams. Development at first was agricultural, but with more technology came more dense development, more asphalt and rooftops. As the rainwater washes over these hard surfaces, it picks up pollutants such as gasoline and asphalt residues and traces of fertilizers.

Wilhelm noted that residents who built their homes on lots filled with “lollipop trees and grass” hurt the environment by creating unnatural landscapes. The lollipop trees were bushes and smaller trees that did not have spreading branches. The grass “didn’t know how to grow” because it was perpetually being cut and fed.  Rain water washed over the grass into creeks like Trim, onto rivers like the Kankakee and eventually to the now-pulsing Illinois River and down to New Orleans, via the Mississippi . Wilhelm pointed out that natural landscaping works better in keeping the water on the land, with plants that have long, deep roots.

Breaking into three groups – one on agricultural practices, one on changes you can do on your own lot, and one on policy changes  – the attendees worked on what can be done for the Trim Creek to prevent it from becoming overloaded with fertilizer runoff and maintain its fish count.

In a final round of interactive voting, 80 percent of those attending said they would like to see the development and extension of recreational trails in the Trim Creek area, and 75 percent felt that natural amenities like wetlands and native plantings could be marketable as a part of new developments in the area.

 

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