Story of Long Grove's '36 Acres' told in lush photo book
Not many photographers can find every photo needed for a beautiful coffee table book simply by walking out the back door. But that's why Tobin Fraley lives where he does.
Fraley grew up in California and was living in Kansas City when his wife, Rachel Perkal, landed a new job in Itasca in 1999. The couple was driving around the Northwest suburbs looking at houses when they found the home for them in Long Grove,
"The house was nice, but being next to the nature preserve was amazing," remembers Fraley, whose home backs up against the Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve. The natural setting was so amazing that, in January of 2003, Fraley began documenting the beauty and changes during winter, spring, summer and fall. Seven years later, after taking more than 10,000 photographs, Fraley had the photos he wanted.
His book, "36 Acres: A Portrait of the Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve" ($34.95), is available through amazon.com, at the website www.36acres.com or at Trillium of Long Grove, 223 Robert Parker Coffin Road.
It features dozens of photographs of oaks and maples, great blue herons and tiny ants, wildflowers and mushrooms and the changes from season to season. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Reed-Turner Woodland Trust for continuing restoration, preservation and maintenance of the preserve.
While the suburban community can be awash in traffic jams, subdivisions and strip malls, the Reed-Turner Nature Preserve is an oasis.
"It's almost like there's a cushion around it. You're surrounded. It's just so peaceful," says Fraley, 59. "It's easy to take a nice, deep breath and feel you are somewhere away from civilization."
The reason those 36 acres remain unpaved is Barbara Reed Turner.
"People soon learned after communicating with me that there was no chance that it would be developed," says Turner, 91.
Her parents, Guy and Florence Reed, moved into that natural setting when she was 9 years old. Guy Reed was Long Grove's first village president.
Barbara married Harold Turner, the late WGN musician who played the station's grand pipe organ for everything from old radio dramas to TV's "The Bozo Show." They raised their family in the cabin that now serves as the nature center at 3849 Old McHenry Road.
"It's a wonderful life to have lived," says Barbara Turner, who studied under renowned naturalist May Watts at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle and worked to restore and preserve the land before donating it to nature groups and eventually the Long Grove Park District.
One of the reasons she is so pleased with Fraley's book is that it might encourage people to stop into the preserve, which is open year-round.
"It's wonderful to have people discover these little pockets," Barbara Turner says.
Some of the natural beauty in the preserve can be found in other spots throughout the suburbs, says Fraley, a children's author and former member of an improv comedy group who has taught nature photography classes at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum.
"Part of what I teach is the process of seeing; slowing down and really seeing the amazing things right in front of you," says Fraley, who also writes eloquent passages explaining the things he sees.
"If you really explore it, you can find amazing things in these bits of nature that are right down the block."
Some of the photos in his book are shot in black-and-white.
"Color can be distracting," Fraley says. "You really see it in some ways much more clearly in black and white."
What is clear is that Fraley's passion for the preserve is made possible by the Turners' generous donation and thousands of hours of volunteers restoring the parcel and removing the invasive species of plants that threaten the natural landscape.
"If I see garlic mustard or buckthorn sprouting up, I find myself getting drawn into pulling it," Fraley says of the countless hours he has spent walking through and photographing the preserve. "It's hard not to."