MCCF donates 77 acres near 14 and Lily Pond Road

Woodstock will soon add a new conservation area that features oak trees dating back to the 1830s.

The 77-acre parcel, located near Highway 14 and Lily Pond Road, was purchased by the McHenry County Community Foundation for $1.5 million in 2009. MCCF recently donated the land to the city of Woodstock and hopes to see it restored.

Because the property is adjacent to railroad tracks and is one of the first things riders see when traveling into Woodstock via rail, the city and The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, a conservation nonprofit serving as steward of the land, intend to focus first on this area.

“Our vision, short-term, is to do some restoration of the woods — in particular, along the tracks,” said Lisa Haderlein, executive director TLC. “We want to make an impression.”

About 18 acres of the parcel consists of oak savanna and is home to many towering, mature oak species. Hickory trees are also plentiful and easy to distinguish by their unique bark. Many of the oaks date back to the 1830s when European settlers first came to McHenry County, according to Haderlein.

“When we look back at surveys, 40 percent of the county contained oak woods and savanna. Today it is about 4 percent. Places like this are a true remnant. It was here before the tracks were here, it was here when Native Americans were still around here,” Haderlein said.

The wetland portion of the property is currently rich with bird species — egrets, herons, cranes and ducks can be found floating, fishing and flying around the water and in the surrounding trees. The wetlands provide an important migratory habitat for many species of birds, according to the foundation.

The land will be managed by TLC. MCCF also donated $25,000 — $15,000 of that will aid in clean-up and restoration effort, and $10,000 will be kept in endowment. Haderlein hopes to have the area ready for visitors sometime in 2018.

While there are many invasive species that have emerged over the years of the land sitting unkept, Haderlein has also spotted native plants such as goldenrod and whorled milkweed, two uncommon but exciting finds.

The donation is the fifth conservation area in Woodstock that will be managed by TLC, and the largest. Right now, the land is not accessible to the public. In the future, the site, yet to be named, could offer miles of hiking trails and bird-watching opportunities, according to Haderlein.

The McHenry County Community Foundation funds projects throughout the county. Robin Doeden, MCCF’s executive director, said the new conservation area will benefit future generations.

“By preserving these precious 77 acres for local families, children and their grandchildren, and by partnering with the city of Woodstock and The Land Conservancy, we are strengthening our efforts to promote healthy and active lifestyles and preserve the history and the beautiful, unique landscapes of McHenry County,” Doeden said.

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