Left Justified: Machesney Park: Showing us urban sprawl

The Village of Machesney Park north of Loves Park has graciously printed examples of the worst kind of urban sprawl plaguing Winnebago County. The report is in full color and it’s free.

It’s their “The 2004 Calendar: A View From Above” by Village President Linda Vaughn and picturing all the village board of trustees. The calendar has 12 lovely months worth of “from the air” photos of roads, big box stores, strip malls, sprawling housing developments and parking lots—basically the worst of modern American growth.

Taken from great heights, most pictures look the same: a lot of concrete and asphalt. Two of the 12 featured developments have earned Sierra Club’s “Nasty Nine” awards: the month of September highlights the River Keys subdivision that expands the village west of the Rock River. Built in a lowland area right along the Rock River, it promotes fears of flooding there and downstream.

The month of May, a time of new growth and spring, is highlighted in the calendar by Perryville Road, which is called a “major economic engine in the county.” The caption states the road will be extended northward to Swanson and shows a picture of where Perryville meets Illinois 173. Really, from the air it looks uglier than at ground level, and much more menacing.

April has the bleakest landscape, in my opinion. The caption claims that the downtown of Machesney Park is really North Second Street and Harlem Road. From the air, it looks like three large box stores and a whole lot of blacktop and concrete.

The calendar is free and can be found at the police station behind the Machesney Park Mall, which is featured on the December 2004 page. It’s enough to give wet dreams to Rockford Blacktop and all concrete pourers, but sends environmentalists into apoplexy.

Machesney Park’s mentality is so blatantly anti-environment and anti-green (there is not one park pictured in that calendar—maybe there’s no park in that city). I fear it will sprawl across Illinois 173 toward the interstate and greet the visitors to Rock Cut State Park. Machesney Park controls the entrance to our environmental crown here in northern Illinois. But instead of finding an exit from I-90 that is environmentally green, lush, and lovely, tourists will be greeted by every conceivable fast-food joint, bright light and sign pollution.

Instead of welcoming the visitor to Rock Cut State Park, Machesney plans on welcoming the visitor to malled America. And I bet you there were no complaints from any of the board of trustees about the calendar depicting the Village of Machesney Park as nothing more than one large strip mall.

Someone should complain to the state of Illinois: move Machesney far from the border with Wisconsin, or we’ll get a bad reputation with our neighbor to the north.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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