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updated: 5/8/2013 3:27 PM

Elgin's Izaak Walton chapter wants to stabilize Willow Creek

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  • Elgin resident Richard Carlson points to erosion and accumulation of rocks in the area where Poplar and Willow creeks meet. Last month's heavy storms accelerated the damage. Carlson attended a meeting of the Elgin chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America on Tuesday to talk about how to stabilize the banks of the creek.

       Elgin resident Richard Carlson points to erosion and accumulation of rocks in the area where Poplar and Willow creeks meet. Last month's heavy storms accelerated the damage. Carlson attended a meeting of the Elgin chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America on Tuesday to talk about how to stabilize the banks of the creek.
    Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

 
 

Members of the Elgin chapter of Izaak Walton League of America want to stabilize the banks of Willow Creek -- they just need to find support for the project, they said.

About 20 people met Tuesday night to discuss Willow Creek, a tributary of Poplar Creek in Elgin's southeast side. The discussion was based on a management plan for the Willow Creek watershed completed in August 2012 by environmental biologist Karen Kase, who works for Hampton, Lenzini and Renwick Inc. in Elgin.

The plan was a school project for Kase, who expects to graduate in December with a master's degree in natural resources and environmental sciences from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"There are a lot of management plans for Poplar Creek, but there wasn't anything specifically for Willow Creek," Kase said.

The banks of Willow Creek, especially in the south end, have suffered a lot of erosion, she said.

Erosion is accelerated by heavy rains, like during last month's storms. It causes loss of land, which in turn is bad for the quality of the water and animal habitats, she said.

Elgin resident Richard Carlson said he's seen a lot of changes to Willow Creek in the 12 years since he's lived nearby.

"I used to go behind my fence and sit on the creek bank -- but that's all gone now," he said.

Erosion is now encroaching on the bike and walking path near where Willow and Poplar creeks meet, Kase pointed out.

Planting native plants -- like river bulrush, hardstem bulrush or butterfly weed -- is a great remedy against basic erosion, Kase said.

"Native plants have very deep root systems, they hold soil in place, and also tolerate fluctuating water levels a lot more than turf grass," she said.

Deeper erosion can be controlled with structural remedies -- like Geoweb -- to hold the ground in place, she said.

Elgin chapter member John Ziegler said the group hopes to fund the bank stabilization project either by finding grant money or getting donations.

There's also hope that another entity will step in, like the city of Elgin or Hanover Township, he said.

The chapter recently gifted 11 acres along Poplar Creek to Hanover Township. The township is planning to clean up downed trees from Willow Creek as part of an emergency training exercise, Ziegler said.

A large-scale bank stabilization project for Willow Creek would be ideal, Kase said.

But even if that doesn't happen, homeowners can do a lot on their own, she said.

"Planting native plants is going to have a positive effect on your yard," she said. "There are definitely steps that people can take that can make a huge difference."

Elgin chapter president Bill Jones said he believes that, now more than ever, people are aware of the importance of conservation. "I don't know how much ahead of this thing we're going to get, but we're going to try," he said.

A cleanup of Willow Creek will take place 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 18. Anyone interested in volunteering should email cleanwillowcreek@sbcglobal.net. The Izaak Walton League is at elginike.org or (847) 741-9393.

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