Developers have marked their beach head from which will be launched the commercialization of highway 173 from Perryville Rd. to I-90, and possibly beyond. Soon, weapons of mass construction will sit just 100 yards from Rock Cut State Park, poised to lower the parks quality by changing its neighborhood forever. Proposed developments along the entire north border of Rock Cut on route 173 will turn Illinois second most-visited park into an island. With I-90 being the parks east boundary, subdivisions bordering the south side and Machesney Park flanking Rock Cuts west side, only the north side is open space. However, development along 173 will complete the square. The impacts will be many, from noise, light, road congestion, litter and people spill-over to ugliness, groundwater contamination, run-off and corridor blockage, plus more.
Some say we need smart growth; we need the smartest growth. The growth of wild plants, insects, other invertebrates, birds and mammals without the disturbances of mans growth. This threat to Rock Cut should spark our local environmental activists into action.
The Sierra Club is opposed to the 173 development. I spoke to Sue Briedigan, spokesman for the Blackhawk Sierra Club (our areas chapter). Sue believes that there is much opposition to the development, but local environmentalists are factioned on what to do. Yet other environmentalists put the 173 problem on a lower priority scale further decreasing action. The environmental movement to save open space is not as strong here as it is in eastern McHenry County or Lake and Kane counties. Theyve lost more than we have. They miss what theyve lost and we literally had their backs against the wall in danger of losing everything. Thats the overall feeling as you get closer to Chicago, said Briedigan. Winnebago County has saved chunks of natural areas and big stretches of river corridor, giving people green places to escape to. Our forest preserves give us relief from that back against the wall pressure. But natural preserves can get boxed in with sprawl that significantly lowers their natural quality property values. The large subdivision on Perryville and Linden roads, that is bordered on the south by Black Hawk Springs Forest Preserve is a good example of lowering preserve quality.
Where are the impact studies of subdivisions like this? Where are the impact studies on the 173 developments affecting Rock Cut? The development along 173 has been on the drawing board for years, but regional green planning was conceived, planned and drawn as a guide years before the development plans.
Why are our areas green plans headed for the trash? Has green planning become just a ritual? According to the words of a local green wiseman, the 173 strip sprawl will attract a north flank of secondary development. The secondary flank will spur flanks of its own and so on and so on. Soon, youll have a development with corporate cookie-cutter businesses with deep flanking subdivisions. Itll look like the second coming of far East State Street. Itll be a town unto itself; Rock Cut City, the city that cut off Rock Cut. Therein lies the crime, taking away the open space from Rock Cut State Park. Do you think development is an addition? We used to build for a different kind of need.
Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associates degree in science and a bachelors in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.