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.

A Tree for George

On October 23, 2019, the Springfield Park District honored Friends Board member, steward of the Washington Park nature trail and friend of nature, George Rose, with a white oak tree, planted just east of the smaller parking area for the tennis courts.

As many of you know, George passed away earlier this summer. George worked tirelessly on behalf of the Friends to restore the nature trail area in Washington Park, removing honeysuckle and other invasive species. He also helped create “no mow” areas in the park to al- low white oak seedlings to grow. His efforts inspired a group of dedicated volunteers that helped him out rain, shine, snow, or ice. We will miss George dearly, but Washington Park attests to his time here and with us, and we are grateful.

The Friends of the Sangamon Valley and Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary

Thanks to WSEC TV PBS Springfield’s Illinois Stories for the story on The Friends of the Sangamon Valley and Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary. If you haven’t seen it, click the link to watch on YouTube.

We have several events coming up in 2019 at Nipper (Facebook Event links below), and you can see firsthand all the things Mark McDonald discovered in his interview of our Executive Director Vernon LaGesse.

Directions: Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary is located 10 miles southwest of Springfield at 9560 Withers Road near Loami. From Springfield/Chatham take East Loami Road west to Lead Line Road. Turn South (left) on Lead Line Road to Withers Road. Turn west (right) on Withers Road. Go about 0.5 mile until you see the entrance sign. Parking lot on site.

Nipper is a private, 120-acre prairie sanctuary established in 1995 for the protection of wildlife and to educate the public. Site details. The sanctuary is open all days, daylight hours.

Follow us on Facebook. You can help The Friends of the Sangamon Valley with our land conservation and habitat restoration work by donating or becoming a member. Please explore the information on this blog, and explore our Places & Projects.

Butterfly Weed (Milkweed)
Prairie Days wetland tour
FOSV_Sunset_Tour2 (1)
Sunset Tours
Executive Director Vernon LaGesse on Illinois Stories (WSEC)

Additional upcoming events …

Seeds from the Earth Awareness Fair

Hello to everyone who checked in at our table at Saturday’s Earth Awareness Fair at the Old State Capitol! You can explore this blog and our Facebook page to find out more about The Friends of the Sangamon Valley.


We had some give-aways Saturday of native plants collected by one of our volunteers (note these seeds have been kept cool over winter, so they are ready to plant!) Other received some seed packets from Monarch Landscaping & Garden Center.

Find a small sunny spot in your yard, and you can create habitat for pollinators, insects and birds (just like The Friends do, but on a smaller scale).


Please join our non-profit organization! We rely on donors to pay for the equipment and support our volunteers at our habitat restoration projects in the Springfield region. Thanks!

Winter/Spring Events for Friends of the Sangamon Valley

The Friends of the Sangamon Valley has a bunch of events planned for the first part of 2019. Here’s the info, be sure to follow us on Facebook for updates, and be sure to join so you’re always notified via our newsletter . . .

Annual Meeting – walk of Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary11am Saturday February 9 – includes a short walk (weather permitting) with tour of wetlands, followed by chili. Presentation of annual report by Vernon LaGesse on our group’s activities and a slideshow featuring highlights of our 20 years in conservation. Great event to attend if you’re interested in joining, becoming a volunteer or serving in a leadership position. At Nipper Wildlife Sanctuary (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.)


Chainsaw WorkshopSaturday February 23 – Get ready to volunteer in 2019 volunteer by sharpening your skills at free training workshops.

ADVANCED class from 10am-noon, for those who already took a beginner course. You will learn techniques for dropping larger trees. You must register in advance, limited space available. Call Vern 525.1410. LUNCH will be made available for those who stay to help with the . . .

BEGINNER class from 1-3pm, if you have a chainsaw and want to know how to use it safely. We will cover chainsaw operation, safety, maintenance, battery-powered saws, and how to cut small trees and shrubs. You must register in advance by calling Vern 525.1410.

Hopefully you’ll be volunteering on our work days. But if this is just to hone your skills to work your own, personal restoration project – you’re more than welcome to come! At Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, 2315 E Clear Lake Ave, Springfield, Illinois 62703 (an Illinois Audubon Society nature preserve).


Burn Crew Training1-5pm Saturday March 2 – Controlled burns are an important part of our stewardship work. If you’re interested in being on the burn crew, you may have some long exhausting days, but you’ll have a lot of fun, experience great teamwork, and get close to one of nature’s great phenomena. Plus you’ll really be helping us out. Come out to the training to see if burn crew is for you.

Call Vern at 525.1410 to register or for more information. Classroom and field session, so dress appropriately (long pants, long sleeves, sturdy boots, natural fibers). Hopefully you’ll be volunteering on our work days. But if this is just to hone your skills to work your own, personal restoration project – you’re more than welcome to come!


Mushroom Workshop1-3pm Saturday March 16 – We’ll show you how to grow your own oyster and shiitake mushrooms, and give you what you need to get started.

All previous sessions of this workshop have sold out. We’ve moved to a larger facility to accommodate more people, but you’ll need to act fast to reserve your spot. The workshop fee is $20 for members and $25 for non-members (membership information link). You will receive two logs and inoculated plugs for both types of mushrooms. You will learn how to harvest mushrooms from the logs, where to get spore, and how to start your own logs (one oyster, one shiitake). The oysters should fruit in fall/winter 2019 and the shiitakes in fall 2020.

Call Vern at 525.1410 to register. Pay in advance to reserve a spot. The workshop starts at 1pm, if you are not present by 1:10pm, we will give your spot to the first person on the waiting list with your payment used as a donation to our conservation work. Send payment to Friends of the Sangamon Valley, PO Box 13352, Springfield, IL 62791 or through Paypal.

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. Click here to get to the membership information page.


Tour of Gudmundson Property & Sangamon River Float11am-2pm Saturday April 13 –  This is a MEMBERS ONLY event (membership information link). Join us for a walking tour of the Sangamon River bluffs/floodplain of our new acquisition north of the Springfield airport. Meet at Howard Johnson’s parking lot, Rt. 29, just south of the airport and we’ll caravan to the property. Tour will be followed by an optional float to Rolling Meadows Brewery. Canoes can put in on the Gudmundson property, about five miles upstream of the Brewery. Those who stay behind can join us for a hot dog cook out, with a caravan to Rolling Meadows afterwards. Canoe availability is limited. Call Vern at 525.1410 to reserve a place on the float.

Thanks to all our members who make possible all our workdays, events, tours and other efforts to preserve and rehabilitate natural areas in the Springfield, Illinois region. See a list of our Places & Projects. Please join! Please volunteer! Thanks!