Waukegan property approved as Illinois Nature Preserve

Updated 1/27/2012 4:15 PM
  • This property in Waukegan, which contains a rare prairie landscape, was approved this week by state authorities as an Illinois Nature Preserve.

    This property in Waukegan, which contains a rare prairie landscape, was approved this week by state authorities as an Illinois Nature Preserve. courtesy liberty prairie conservancy

A meadow near Waukegan described as a snapshot in time for its rare landscape has been approved for dedication as an Illinois Nature Preserve.

Identified as a high-quality natural area more than 30 years ago, the parcel east of the Tri-State Tollway between routes 120 and 137 this week was approved by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

That designation, which protects the last remnants of the Illinois wilderness, ensures the 93 acres will remain untouched by development or other intrusions, such as utilities, in perpetuity.

"It means that site has been conferred the greatest level of protection in Illinois," said Steve Byers, advance natural resource specialist for the commission.

The preserve is named Dokum Mskoda, which means "quiet prairie". The name was proposed by the seven tribal councils of the Potawatomi tribe, the last of a succession of indigenous people to live in the Chicago region, according to the Grayslake-based Liberty Prairie Conservancy, a land preservation group.

Dokum Mskoda is a wetland area that is under water much of the year and contains two distinct ecosystems -- a prairie and sedge meadow that has remained much the same as when it was seen by early settlers.

"Less than 7/100 of 1 percent of our prairie heritage survives in Illinois," Byers said.

While it will have state protection, the land remains privately owned by the association of a nearby townhouse development. The association thought it owned considerably less property and sought help when the true size was determined.

"They've worked three years to make this happen," said Linda Yunker, a consultant to the association covering 96 units. "They just wanted to make sure that was protected and couldn't change."

Byers also acknowledged the owners.

"This took real leadership and the homeowners association stepped up and provided it," he added.

The area received preliminary state approval two years ago, but official designation languished because the land surrounded a separate property that had potential for development of an access road, according to Steve Barg, executive director of Liberty Prairie Conservancy.

That group purchased those eight acres from Lake Forest Builders Inc., clearing the way for the formal dedication. Funding for the purchase and future expansions were provided by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and William Wells, a former Lake County resident.

"This site has been known since 1978 as an important area to preserve because of the makeup its rare species and habitat," Barg said. "We see this as a catalyst to do more in this incredibly important biological area."

The site also is important for clean water and flood control, he added.

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