Volunteers sought for unique creek restoration

Restoration of Raccoon Creek is a critical phase of the wetland enhancement project at the 720-acre Nygren Wetland Preserve west of Rockton. The project is the most complex and labor intensive restoration undertaken by the Natural Land Institute, a private, not-for-profit conservation organization based in Rockford.

On Saturday, Aug. 23, volunteers helped the Natural Land Institute clear brush and woody debris from the old creek channels to make way for water to be diverted from the existing ditch. When restored, the creek will again be a living stream for fish such as the state-endangered Iowa darter and the state-threatened River otter found in Raccoon Creek upstream from the ditched segment.

Upstream from the Nygren Wetland Preserve, Raccoon Creek is a biologically significant stream with a high number of fish and mussel species present. The segment that flows through the Nygren Wetland Preserve was ditched in the 1970s to increase drainage of the adjoining land. As a result of the modification, the banks of the ditched channel are severely eroding. The ditch has filled with sediment, destroying habitat for fish and wildlife.

Volunteers helping with this unique project will arrive at the Nygren Wetland Preserve between 9 a.m and 5 p.m. The preserve is about one and a half miles west of Rockton at 3190 West Rockton Rd. Additional workdays are scheduled for Sept. 13, Oct. 4 and Nov. 22. For information, contact the Natural Land Institute at 815/964-6666.

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