Donate to Friends of the Sangamon Valley

Are people starting to bug you, asking what you want for Christmas? How about a “share” of the 1,853 acres managed by the Friends of the Sangamon Valley? Or 579 acres of prairie as a butterfly garden? All they have to do is send a check to:

Friends of the Sangamon Valley

PO Box 13352

Springfield, IL 62791

You can also donate on Facebook at or via PayPal.

Solar Chariot Acoustic will headline Friends fall fundraiser Sunday, October 10 

Join us for an evening of music and friendship! Lake Beach House Fundraiser 4-8 pm Sunday Oct. 10th. $10 at the door. Headlined by Josie Lowder and her trio, Solar Chariot Acoustic.

Lowder continues to honor her Central Illinois roots, but she channels musical influences from around the globe including funk, jazz, bluegrass and soul. Her lifelong musical journey includes receiving a “golden ticket” in season 12 of American Idol, and serving as a musical instructor at the Boston School of Music Arts. She is appearing with her mother, vocalist Peggy Lowder, and guitar virtuoso Nate Cozzad as part of her current musical incarnation.

A food truck will be on hand, and guests are also welcome to bring their own food and beverages. The evening will also feature a silent auction of items, including an original painting of a short-eared owl by Kevin Viera. For more information, or to donate auction items, call 217-525-1410.

The Beach House is in Center Park, 100 Long Bay Drive, north of Lindsay Bridge and south of the Henson Robinson Zoo entrance. Go East on Stevenson Drive (East Lake Shore Drive as you cross Spaulding Dam and the lake). Go past Lincoln Greens to Long Bay Drive. Turn right on Long Bay Drive; and then left at the stop sign. Center Park is on your right. If you’re coming from the west, cross Linsday Bridge and take the first left into Center Park.

2020 Mushroom Workshop

The mushroom workshop is back at Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary 1pm March 21, 2020. Participants will learn the dos and don’ts of growing oyster and shiitake mushrooms from cottonwood and oak logs.

Everyone will get logs they will inoculate themselves. The Friends will provide the logs, mushroom plugs, and some power tools. Bring a hammer/mallet, and drill with 5/16th inch bit if you have it.

Space is limited and this is a popular workshop. Registration is required; call 217-525-1410 to register or for more information. $25 for members; $30 for non-members. Payment may be sent to FOSV, PO Box 13352, Springfield, IL 62791. Pay via PayPal.

The workshop starts at 1, if you are not present by 1:10, we will give your spot to the first person on the waiting list with your payment used as a donation to our conservation work.

To get to Nipper: From Springfield or Chatham, take E. Loami Rd. west to Lead Line Rd. Turn south (left) on Lead Line to Withers Rd. Turn west (right) on Withers. Go about a 1/2 mile until you see the entrance sign for the Sanctuary; parking lot on site. 9560 Withers Rd., Loami.

How Are Your Mushrooms Doing?

For the last several years, the Friends have held a workshop on growing Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms. Past participants have reported various degrees of success with their logs, but the logs at Friends HQ continue to sprout vast numbers of both types of mushrooms.

Many of Vern’s oyster mushrooms this year have been blue or had a bluish tinge to them. These get a darker grey after being picked and stored. They are fine and perfectly edible. Oysters will grow throughout the winter, as long as temperatures are above freezing.

If you’ve been having a hard time with your mushroom logs, remember, moisture is key. Get them wet. Turn the sprinkler on them if you need to; about 20-30 minutes at a time. Keep them in the shade. Don’t let them dry out. And don’t give up. The effort is well worth it.

Nipper Water Quality Study Final Report Released

After a year and a half of data collection and another year or two of planning prior to that, the first phase of the Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary water quality study has been completed. Lochmueller Group produced a summary report discussing the data, what it might indicate, and provided recommendations for continuing the study.

Based on 2016 sampling by the Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District, which showed reduction in nitrate from the outlet to Lick Creek compared to the wetland by the nature center, we wanted to expand the study to see if the Nipper wetlands were preventing nutrients from neighboring agricultural lands getting into Lick Creek. This would have a positive effect on the water quality in the Lake Springfield watershed. So in 2018, the Nipper Foundation, with assistance from the Brandt Foundation and The Friends of the Sangamon Valley, embarked on a formal water quality study of run off from the agricultural fields, wetlands, and outflow from the wetlands to Lick Creek.

Nipper Water Quality Study Final Report

In our first 18 months, we’ve found that the outflow concentrations from the last wetland are substantially lower than the inputs coming in from the agricultural field, especially for suspended solids, nitrogen, and phosphorus. We don’t yet have enough data to do a detailed quantitative evaluation, but what we’ve seen thus far has provided enough impetus to continue the study for at least another two years and possibly longer. A qualitative evaluation indicates anywhere from a 50-70% reduction in levels of nitrate, total nitrogen, and phosphorus as water passes through the wetland cells. This information is very preliminary and will certainly be modified as additional information is gathered.

The summary report, written by the Lochmueller Group’s Joe Bartletti and Bryan Cross, makes recommendations for additional sampling and provides suggestions for tweaking the sampling plan we’ve been using. More data is needed to gain a better understanding of the hydrology, the role that groundwater plays in the wetlands, and overall water budget. Standardizing the conditions under which samples will be taken and when samples are collected should help increase the usability of the data and help in comparisons from year-to-year or season-to-season.

We’re also initiating a similar study of the constructed wetlands on Mary Lou Tyner-Lael’s property in rural Morgan County. Mary Lou’s restoration is a different age than Nipper’s, the topography is different, and there is an additional wetland cell. It will be interesting to see how Nipper and the Lael property differ.

Thanks very much to Northwater for developing the sampling plan and training, to Lochmueller Group for pulling the data together and providing a final report, to Vern LaGesse, Charlene Falco, Mike Kennedy, Nick Klobuchar, and Jeanne Handy for helping with sample collection and lab analysis, to PDC Labs for sample analysis, and not least to the Nipper Foundation and Brandt Foundation for funding and support.

2020 Annual Meeting Report

We had a record turnout for our Annual Meeting at Nipper Sanctuary in Loami on February 1, 2020. 44 people came out and enjoyed six different chilis and soups, not to mention great home-made cup cakes. It was quite cold, but that didn’t stop peer pressure from getting a tour going.

Overall of Annual Meeting
Friends of the Sangamon Valley annual meeting at Nipper Wildlife Preserve in Loami.

The business meeting portion was short and predictable, nothing wrong with that. After taking nominations from the floor (there were none), several board members were re-elected to two-year terms. Welcome back Bob Barewin, Angi Davis, Charlene Falco, Peggy Goetsch, John Justice, George Sinclair, and Jim Struebing. Plus, Mike Kennedy, whose been lurking at our last several board meetings, has joined us for his first term.

Vern LaGesse gave his annual report. He introduced the board members and reminded folks that being on the board is a real way to make a difference and participate in the group. He remembered George Rose, the difference he made, and how we will miss him.

He recounted our workdays: 47 this year; with the Tuesday and Thursday days (the “retiree” workdays) being particularly popular. It’s how we get most of our work done and Vern emphatically said, “Our volunteers make FOSV what we are.” He said we can be proud of our stewardship effort; and that no one else is doing this at the same scale in our area. Our workdays have included many days at Audubon’s Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, 5 days at the Wolf, 3 days at Gudmunson, 1 each at Knuppel, Robinson and Nipper, and 1 day at the Lael wetlands, along with a fire day. Vern called out Greg Feeny and Joel Johnson for special recognition on the massive amount of work they have devoted to the bike trails and the special landscaping flair Joel has brought to their efforts.

He talked about our work done in partnerships: with CWLP on their property, which is especially making a difference now that neighbors are understanding our goal. Working with the city’s Lake Services crew has helped productivity. They have a Bobcat with a rotary blade which works very quickly and takes care of the lower quality areas, so volunteers can spend time in higher quality areas, being more precise in which plants they remove. The Soil and Water Conservation District is another fruitful partnership.

We continue to offer training to volunteers, including workshops for chainsaw use, fire management, and herbicide application. We continue our mushroom growing workshop, making use of some of the wood we cut during our workdays.

The Sangamon River cleanup continues. We didn’t do the water cleanup this year due to a scare over blue green algae, so instead, we worked the shores with 20 volunteers. Vern remarked on the gradual attitude change among people who live next to the river and that we are gradually seeing less trash being thrown out in these areas.

Our Members-only tour of the Gudmundson property brought out a good size crowd in the spring to see this interesting tract on bluffs above the river. The sunset tours at Nipper have proven to be very popular and were well attended.

Vern thanked our tour leaders, Kevin Veara, Chris Young, and Joe Bartletti, during our newest annual event, Prairie Days, which generally happens the first Saturday in June at Nipper. The bird banding folks from Lincoln Land Community College have been a popular draw and they are learning quite a bit about Nipper with their annual efforts. Birds that they have banded two years ago have been recaptured in the same spots.

Ross Padgett, our intern is still with us, and we are pleased to have Krystle Adams with us, currently our part-time preserve manager, and being groomed as Vern’s replacement.

We have a growing Legacy program; several people have left us property in their estate, with some stipulating the time of restoration they would like to see, with the Nipper and Wolf projects serving as their inspiration. Vern dropped the big question: Can we keep the organization going long enough to receive these gifts and accomplish the restorations? Krystle and our strong volunteer network gives us hope.

Vern thanked the board members again, we broke for a lunch and a splendid time was had by all. See you next year, and hopefully soon- er!

Nipper winter tour
Vern LaGesse leads a wintery cold tour of Nipper during the Annual Meeting. Good thing the chili was hot. Photo by Steve Warmowski.

Workdays and Events for first half of 2020

Here’s a screenshot of Workdays and Events from our latest newsletter.  Like our Facebook page to get updates. Sign on to our email updates list to get info pushed to you. Become a member to get the newsletter mailed to you, and to support all our conservation and restoration efforts.

Donate on our Facebook page. Via PayPal. Via post.

Friends of the Sangamon Valley
PO Box 13352
Springfield, IL 62791
Individual $30, Family $45, and Student $20…

Deep Hollow at Hand of Fate

Another great Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day event is in the books. Thanks to Bill Crook’s organizing, we had a great time with The Deep Hollow and special guest Jaigh Lowder, at Hand of Fate Brewing Company in Petersburg on October 11, 2019.

The Deep Hollow played to a full house. Their twin guitars, three voice presentation was polished and their originals kept the evening rolling along. They also surprised with some great cover songs like George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun, and John Denver’s Country Roads, which had everyone joining in on the chorus. They were nice enough to indulge the crowd who asked for a reprise of Country Roads during the band’s encore. Weird, but they did it anyway. So kudos to them for being good sports.

Donation from Apex Clean Energy to Friends of the Sangamon Valley concert at Hand of Fate Brewing in Petersburg.

In addition to the good vibes, tunes, and Hand of Fate brews, the Friends were also fortunate to receive a $5,000 donation from Apex Clean Energy / Lincoln Land Wind. Presented by Stan Komperda and Chris Nickell, these local representatives of the company have been members of the Friends for years, and we thank them for their continued support. The donation will be used for ongoing monitoring of the wetlands on Mary Lou Tyner-Lael’s property in rural Morgan County, including the addition of staff gauges and other monitoring devices as well as surface water samples, to see how the Lael wetlands compare to the Nipper wetlands.

Thanks to Bill Crook, Jaigh Lowder, The Deep Hollow, Hand of Fate, and Apex for making this a great evening. Watch for future music events. Thanks to Warmowski Photography for the photos.

Thanks to members and supporters for packing the house! Friends of the Sangamon Valley fundraiser with headliners The Deep Hollow at Hand of Fate Brewing in Petersburg.

The Deep Hollow performs at the Friends of the Sangamon Valley fundraiser at Hand of Fate Brewing in Petersburg.

Bill Crook – Friends of the Sangamon Valley board member and event organizer.

Maple Grove Resident Speaks the Truth

Maple Grove is a small residential area adjacent to Lake Springfield and is an area The Friends of the Sangamon Valley have been working for two years. Marie Havens is a long time resident of Maple Grove. She is also a member of the Native Plant Society. Friends staff, Krystle Adams, recently conducted this interview with Marie after one of our recent workdays.

Krystle: When did you first become interested in the Maple Grove workday?
Marie: I saw a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook and I thought to myself yeah I could do that. The combo of honeysuckle and Maple Grove was just too
irresistible to avoid…Once I knew about the work days I felt
duty bound.

Krystle: What are some of positive benefits of volunteering your time with FOSV?
Marie: Being useful and productive exercise. I hope that we can
help native plants grow throughout Maple Grove which will ultimately help out the wildlife; the area really seems to need more diversity of plants.

Krystle: Marie then let me know what it was like living in this area 20 years ago.
Marie: 20 years ago the only trails through the Maple Grove area were horse trails, once the honey suckle moved in you couldn’t walk through the woods at all. No one was clearing honeysuckle back then unless it started to grow in their back yards. So I can really see now how important the work is. I really wish someone was here, clearing it out 20 years ago when the problem started. I hate honeysuckle.

Krystle: We ended the interview talking about how thankful many of the Maple Grove residents are that FOSV are clearing out invasive species and making it easier for them to watch all the wildlife.
Marie is 75 years old and says, “You’re never too old to get out and help nature.”

Marie on the left, Krsytle on the right, at Maple Grove. Photo by Vern LaGesse.

Free Workshops & Training – Winter 2020

The Friends of the Sangamon Valley is highly dependent on a well-trained group of volunteers. Here’s your opportunity to attend a workshop that’ll give you the skills, certification, and right safety mindset to make our work days and projects a success.

All the workshops are free, but space is limited, so contact Vern 525.1410 to save a spot or for more information. Take the opportunity to learn some new things, meet some new folks, or just have fun.

Herbicide Training • 1-3pm Saturday January 11 at Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary
Herbicide Training sessions cover equipment, safe practices, protective clothing, how to read pesticide labels, and how we use herbicides in our work. Classroom session, followed by an outdoors session (weather permitting). You must attend one of these sessions and receive your certificate in order to work with herbicides on our projects.

Annual Meeting • 11-1 Saturday February 1 at Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary
Hear about our last year and upcoming year. Vote for board members. Eat great chilli! Free! Contact Vern 525.1410 to let us know you’re coming.

Chainsaw Workshop • 9-noon Advanced/1-4 Beginners Saturday February 8 at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary
If you’d like to learn to use a chainsaw or want to check in with someone to make sure you’re doing it right, then you should come to our chainsaw workshops. Learn from experienced sawers and get answers to your “how to” questions. Field practice included. Any attendees from the Advanced session that stay to help out with the Beginners session will get a free lunch.

Fire Training • 1-4 Saturday February 22 at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary
One of the most important management tools is fire used in a controlled manner. We use controlled burns for prairies, woodlands, and wetlands. Classroom session covers principles and practices, including weather conditions, safe practices, equipment, and fire behavior. Field practice to follow, weather permitting.

Fire Training • 1-4 Saturday February 29 at Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary
Same as previous week, but at Nipper.

Click on Facebook links above for more event details, maps/directions and to add to discussion. Here’s a link to our Facebook page @TheFoSV – and note our volunteers are more active on Facebook than this blog/web site. So be sure to check the page and the events listed on the page for more updates on The Friends.

Location data for workshops …

Adams Wildlife Sanctuary
2315 E Clear Lake Ave, Springfield, Illinois 62703

Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary
9560 Withers Rd, Loami, Illinois 62661

Bike Trails Looking Good

Quietly working on the Springfield area’s bike trails the last few years, Friends volunteers Greg Feeny and Joel Johnson, are slowly turning the trails into a showcase of landscaping with native species. Most recently, they’ve been working on almost a mile of the Interurban trail, roughly a mile from Woodside trailhead.

Greg started the effort a few years ago, and has been removing invasive vegetation and slowly replacing it with native vegetation. Both avid bikers, Joel joined the efforts. Bikers using the trails have generally been supportive, especially more recently, and the Springfield Park District has provided small signs that alert trail users to ongoing restoration.

Most of the Friends work aims to restore natural landscapes in their natural structure and species assemblages. In other words, we broadcast seed or plant species that are expected to be present, and let them sort each other out. It’s not totally haphazard; we pay attention to moisture requirements, and wouldn’t plant a xeric species in a wet prairie for example, but we are generally not too particular about it. In contrast, Joel’s landscaping at the trail head uses appropriate native species, but planted in an organized way to lend a more formal look. As the plants grow and fill in, they will take on a more natural structure and appearance.

Vern went out to check on the guys to see how they were doing and if there was anything they needed. Said Vern, “I was quite impressed with the sheer magnitude of the work they’ve done. The city and Park District should be very proud of the designs Joel created – that they didn’t pay for.” Much of the native vegetation stock that is being used has been grown in Joel’s greenhouse. Joel has become quite the student of native species and checks in with Vern if there are any questions on species or different varieties.

Greg and Joel have worked by themselves, but more bodies mean we can get a little more accomplished. If interested in helping out, contact Vern for more information at ‭(217) 525-1410.

Joel Johnson & Greg Feeny along the Interurban. Photo by Vern LaGesse.