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.

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.

Winter/Spring 2018 Workdays

Volunteers hold tools, prepare to spray herbicide, on hillside covered with prairie grass.
Friends of the Sangamon Valley workday at the Lael Wetland March 2018.

Friends of the Sangamon Valley holds regular workdays with our dedicated volunteers, helping us preserve our natural heritage in the Sangamon River Watershed.

Here’s our listing of workdays for winter/spring 2018. Please join us! Other ways to support our efforts are to become a member, or donate via PayPal (and consider making it a monthly contribution). Give to provide our volunteers the tools and herbicides needed to get the job done.

  • Every Tuesday in March (6, 13, 20, 27) at Hickory Point Woods 10- noon
  • Every Thursday in March (1, 8, 15, 22, 29) at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary from 10-noon
  • March 3 Saturday Lael Wetland 10-noon
  • March 10 Saturday Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, Mushroom Workshop 1-3
  • March 24 Saturday Wolf Preserve 10-noon
  • Every Tuesday in April (3, 10, 17, 24 + May 1) at Hickory Point Woods 10-noon
  • Every Thursday in April (5, 12, 19, 26 + May 3) at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, 10-noon
  • April 21 Saturday Wolf Preserve 10-noon
  • April 28 Saturday South Fork Nature Reserve 10-noon

Visit Facebook for latest updates. Unless noted otherwise, meet at the location at the times listed above. Work gloves and boots are recommended for all work days. All other equipment is provided. Contact Vernon LaGesse via the Facebook page for more information or for directions.

Note our workdays are limited to 2 hours. As our executive director says – anything more than that would be work. 

Properties we own or help maintain . . .

  • Adams Wildlife Sanctuary: Illinois Audubon Society’s sanctuary in Springfield.
  • Hickory Point Woods: East on Toronto Road, to West Lake Drive, turn right continuing east. Turn right on Island Bay Lane, go past Hickory Point Lane, and park on the east side of the road next to the timber.
  • Knuppel Wildlife Sanctuary: Near Old Salem Chautauqua and Petersburg. Contact Vern to RSVP.
  • Lael Property: Contact Vern to RSVP.
  • Walden West: Near Manito. Contact Vern to RSVP.
  • Washington Park: George Rose will be scheduling workdays throughout the season as he is available. Contact Vern to get on phone tree.

Volunteers carrying loppers, tools on short-grass path, in hilly terrain, covered with native plants.
Heading back after two hours (to keep it fun) – workday at Lael Wetland.

Volunteers on hill, cutting invasive honeysuckle.
Volunteers cut invasive honeysuckle – Lael Wetland restoration project.

Friends of the Sangamon Valley is a charitable membership organization dedicated to the preservation of our natural heritage by acquiring, restoring, and protecting ecologically significant lands in the Sangamon River Watershed. Photography courtesy Steve/Warmowski Photography.

Second Annual “Run for the Prairie” is Sept. 9


The Friends of the Sangamon Valley will host the second “Run for the Prairie” at Centennial Park in Springfield on Sept. 9. Unique and challenging 10k and 5k routes wind through the 70-acre Centennial Park Prairie with the 10k beginning at 9 a.m.

Following the start of the 10k, the 5k begins at 10 a.m. with a Fun Run following at 10:30 a.m.

Runners and walkers will be timed, although it is a non-sanctioned race. T-shirts and medals will be given to all runners in the 10k and 5k. Fun run participants will receive T-shirts and finisher ribbons.

Join us for a low-impact run on mowed grass paths through the prairie.

Registration fees: 

10K: $40

5k: 30

Fun run: $20 for families and $10 for individuals

Register for the race and fun run at Watch the Friends of the Sangamon Valley Facebook page for updates. For more information, or to sign up to volunteer, call Dick Poynter at 585-1818.


Reserve your spot now: Spring workshops sponsored by Friends of the Sangamon Valley fill up fast


Chainsaw Handling 

Saturday, February 25, from 1:00 to 3:00 at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary in Springfield. Learn the proper way to handle and maintain a chainsaw. Learn about safe practices, safety equip-ment and different techniques for different situations. One-on-one attention and hands-on practice included. Saws and safety equipment will be available. Bring your own if you want. Call Vern LaGesse at 217-525-1410 to reserve a spot.

Prescribed Fire and Controlled Burns 

Sunday, February 26, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary. Classroom lecture followed by equipment demonstration and possible burn, if weather conditions permit. All handouts and equipment provided. There is no charge for this workshop. Call Vern LaGesse at 217-525-1410 for more information or to reserve a spot.

Mushrooms: Grow Your Own 

Join us on Saturday, March 4, at from 1:00 ’til 3:00 at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary in Springfield to learn about growing oyster and shitake mushrooms. You will be provided with everything you need to create an oyster mushroom log and a shitake mushroom log. Reservations re-quired. Limited space and materials available. $25.00 per person. Bring a cordless drill and a hammer if you have them. Call Vern at 217-525-1410 for more information or to reserve a spot.

Directions and more information:

Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary: Join us at this prairie restoration outside Loami. From Springfield or Chatham, take E. Loami Road west to Lead Line Road. Turn south (left) on Lead Line to Withers Road. Turn West (right) on Withers. Go about one-half mile until you see the signs for the sanctuary. Meet in the parking lot at 9560 Withers Road.

Adams Wildlife Sanctuary: Join us at the Illinois Audubon Society’s sanctuary in Springfield. Meet in the sanctuary’s parking lot. Address: 2315 E Clear Lake Ave, Springfield, IL 62703.

Herbicide Training Sessions Scheduled for Jan. 8, 12

The Friends are selective in the herbicides they use, using the right chemical for the right job in the specific habitat.

To make sure we use these specialized chemicals responsibly and to comply with state laws about how they’re applied and who can apply them, our volun-teers go through annual training on the use of herbi-cides and how to apply them safely and properly.

Vern LaGesse presents specially tailored classes on herbicide application for Friends volunteers. The classes are free, and include an hour of instruction followed by a brief session of field work to put into practice what was learned, weather-permitting. Classes are held at various locations.

This year, two sessions are planned: January 8 at Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary in Loami and January 12 at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary. Both sessions are from 1:00 to 3:00.

Call Vern to register or for more information, 217-525-1410.

Watch for our Run for the Prairie billboard



As you drive through Springfield, keep an eye out for the Run for the Prairie billboard, located on Stevenson Drive.

Registration fees are $40 for the 10K and $30 for the 5K. The family fun run registration fee is $20 for a family of up to six people or $10 for an individual.

Register for the race at: Keep in touch on Facebook at:

Announcement for Racers

Run for the Prairie: Update

The Friends of the Sangamon Valley Board of Directors is excited to announce additional details about the group’s first-ever Run for the Prairie. The 5K/10K race and a family fun run will be held at Centennial Park Sept. 17, 2016.

The 10K starts at 9 a.m. The 5K starts at 10 a.m. The family fun run starts at about 10:20 a.m. The fun run will be about one-mile in length.

The course will be laid out on the mowed grass firebreaks at Centennial Park that are about 80 feet wide. The entire course if 5K. 10K runners will run the course twice. Runners will be timed, although it is not a sanctioned race. T-shirts and medals will be awarded to all runners in the 5K and 10K. Family run groups will receive t-shirts and finisher ribbons. Runners must register separately for each race.

The event offers an opportunity for the Friends to reach new audiences, while providing participants the opportunity to run in a natural setting.

Registration fees are $40 for the 10K and $30 for the 5K. The family fun run registration fee is $20 for a family of up to six people or $10 for an individual.

Volunteers are needed to help set up and tear down the event. Water stations throughout the course also will need to be staffed. We also need help monitoring the course during the race, registering and checking in the runners and help awarding medals and t-shirts.

Volunteers will be needed from 8 a.m. until mid-afternoon. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Dick Poynter at 585-1818. Register for the race at: Keep in touch on Facebook at:

Announcement for Racers