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Article updated: 11/16/2012 5:14 AM

Huntley couple donates land to McHenry County College

Land in Chemung will be used for lab work

By Elena Ferrarin

What happens when your accountant also sits on the board of the local community college?

The college gets an unexpected land donation, and the property owners feel good about making a long-term contribution to students' education.

John and Margaret Tures of Huntley donated a 9.7-acre parcel off Island Road in Chemung, 22 miles west of the Crystal Lake campus of McHenry County College, that will be used for educational and outdoor laboratory work by the college's biology, earth science and horticulture departments. The land, appraised at $30,000, was donated to the Friends of MCC Foundation, which turned it over to the college. A formal dedication ceremony was held Wednesday,

The Tures family has been in the nursery business for about 87 years, and originally bought the land for that purpose, Margaret Tures said. The parcel was most recently part of 90 acres of farmland, but was separated by Mokeler Creek from the rest of the land, she said.

"The land has just been standing here, just paying taxes. When I mentioned it to our accountant last year," Tures said of MCC board Chairwoman Mary Miller, "she said the college might really be interested. She was instrumental in directing us in that direction. We said, 'Go for it.'"

Miller was not available for comment. MCC biology instructor Marla Garrison called the donation a "tremendous" contribution that will allow students to do hands-on work. "It's on a flood plain, it has running water," she said. "You would not find that on many college campuses."

The Chemung property used to be a wetland, but it will likely be restored to prairie land, she said. The McHenry County Conservation District will assist with a biological survey to get things started, and a shelter of some sort might be built to hold classes and faculty and staff retreats, she said.

Students will be involved in all steps of the process, Garrison said. "It's crucial that the students play a big part in this," she said.

Restoration could be complete in about five years, but maintenance will be a long-term effort, she said. "It's ongoing restoration, it's never a finished product. That's where it really is a benefit to an educational institution."

Margaret Tures said the dedication ceremony was emotional for her and her husband, both 77. "We're thrilled that they're thrilled," she said.

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