Editorial: Kishwaukee booze ban continues Dumb to Dumbest

By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher

Beside this, you may read two other columns from readers who spend many hours on the Kishwaukee River every year. They, too, write in response to the sudden and total ban of alcohol by the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District (WCFPD) at put-in and take-out areas on the Kishwaukee River.

The Forest Preserve ban and the ban by the Village of Cherry Valley at Baumann Park was legislatively promulgated by the volunteer group Friends of the Kishwaukee River (FOTKR).

Oddly, many of the members of FOTKR organize and attend Green Drinks events at various local venues to discuss environmental issues. Any results? Meh.

Remember the affection for and success of Blue Laws and Prohibition?

FOTKR may experience that same affection and success if they don’t begin to understand and really practice the very “compromising” and “educating” processes they themselves have championed with beer, wine or cocktail in hand.

Some FOTKR, in my opinion, would be very happy to see the Kishwaukee as a river less traveled. Many environmental elitists view beer-drinking tubers as “hillbillies” who themselves are a river scourge, not knowing one end of a fashionable kayak from the other, on this “Class A” stream.

If FOTKR are so concerned with the pollution of the Kishwaukee, one might ask them where are their legislative efforts to stop the expansion of the massive landfill right at the top of the Kishwaukee River watershed? And where are their legislative promulgations on behalf of Kilbuck Creek, once a sparkling clear tributary to the Kishwaukee, now brown in color as a result of the discharge of the massive landfill?

It’s relatively easy and politically correct to drop a big ban on the little people with beer cans, but it’s economically challenging and socially dangerous to try to drop anything on the likes of shell companies of William Charles, LTD, and their powerful friends.

Powerful friends help make up the Dumb, Dumb, Dumber, More Dumber and now Dumbest public relations moves of the WCFPD, plus the FOTKR.

First Dumb: Considering the big money for powerful friends (labor, construction, county chairman) in the county, very weak opposition to the Winnebago County Wind Farm Ordinance that could ruin the viewscape and web of life for many forest preserves. But, hey, those big wind companies might make big contributions to the Natural Land Institute or the land acquisition fund.

Second Dumb: The Don Gasparini land purchase will cost much more than the overblown land price that lined Don’s pockets, courtesy of one of his right hands, Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board President Randy Olson. But, hey, the IDNR bailed them out with some free fish stocks that may not survive the season. At least the IDNR can be called upon to come to the rescue. Seriously, please ask your state reps and senators to support the IDNR.

Dumber: The ugly clear-cutting of trees at four forest preserves in two years. More than 8,500 trees were slaughtered to create more prairie. I love trees. I love prairie. But I will not kill one to create the other. Google “souls of trees” and see what you find. As far as I am concerned, those involved have 8,500 souls on their conscience. And for what? The state statute for forest preserves says something similar to whenever possible, the land should be returned to its original or pre-settlement state. Yet, this is a “Forest PRESERVE” statute.

Some who have an almost cult-like devotion to prairie creation often cite the fine naturalist author Aldo Leopold and his Sand County Almanac. Yet, they forget what his first job was, a forester. They also seem to forget in their deification of prairie and Leopold, the common aesthetic and common sense. The common or general aesthetic would rather take a walk in the woods than a walk on a prairie — ­less sunburn and no annual or biannual burning, consider asthmatics and global warming. Common sense relates it’s going to take quite a bit of taxpayer money and staff power to plant, maintain (cut out residual saplings) and burn, consider fires getting out of control. Common sense would relate to creating prairie not by removing of standing forests, but by working with areas of scrub brush and new growth — even that could just be left alone — but we have taxpayer dollars to burn!

The only new growth seems to be in meetings to spread the prairie gospel and lull angry neighbors into a state where they think they’re being listened to, but if you look at the new plan for the Roland Olson Forest Preserve, only 150 to 250 trees will be replanted to replace the 2,200 slaughtered, and new prairie abounds. For the sake of trees, real taxpayer preferences and cost to taxpayers, the prairie campaign should be very limited in these hard economic times! How many taxpayer dollars could have been saved at the Sugar River Alder, Fuller and Pecatonica River forest preserves if they had not been clear-cut and planted with comparatively costly prairie?

One letter to the editor writer said pine forests had the biodiversity of a corn field compared to prairie.

Considering the nesting provided for many birds (I like the owls best), squirrels, bats, and the amount of water and air temperature reduction, shade and oxygen produced, plus the carbon dioxide consumption of trees, I disagree. Many four-legged friends have dens in the old bases or trunks of standing and fallen trees, as well. And what about old-growth forests?

Illinois has four old-growth forests left: Shawnee National Forest, Cache River State Natural Area, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, and Beall Woods State Park — all in southern Illinois.

What about planning for establishing old-growth pine forest here? But no; and now I hear they are even clear-cutting for prairie in the great Lowden and Sinnissippi forests near Oregon. Shame.

Those forests made me remember I have stood in the hemlock forests of Washington’s Skagit Valley, and I’ll testify to that towering majesty with its red-needled carpet and fleeting shadows of sun breaking through dense treetops to illume the thick trunks’ dead branches. Go out to the pine forests of Rock Cut State Park and imagine them in 50 to 100 years.

What makes the Kishwaukee River great? It travels through forest preserves, and its gorge is canopied by many trees, most strikingly the Sycamore tree, the river’s namesake

More Dumber: I’m really growing sick more and more of this new WCFPD Board. One member, Jay Ferraro, had to be called out for living in Moline, and let’s not forget the sneaky attempt to slip in a special bill to increase our tax rate. State Rep. Chuck Jefferson saved us all at the last minute. Now, after interviewing 20-some candidates to replace the absentee leadership of Executive Director Tom Kalousek, the board will not hire any of them and has suspended the search. Board President Randy Olson says he’ll stand in on a part-time basis. Duh. There’s sophisticated organizational planning and leadership!

Dumbest: The board composition, the taxation attempt, the lack of leadership, the First Dumb, the Second Dumb, the Dumber and the More Dumber are all topped off by this alcohol ban, the Dumbest. Why? All this stupidity displays total arrogance. All this stupidity reeks of a disregard and dismissal of the common citizen; it’s a rule by an imposing little group of people for their own self-interest disguised as environmentalism. They think you are dumb.

Dumb people should not have fun in public. Let’s just take the fun out of the outdoors. NO, EVERYBODY, you cannot have a beer and float down the Kishwaukee. NO, area businesses who count on this tourism for their revenue; and NO, other governmental entities that count on this tourism for their sales tax revenue; and NO, people who love to visit our area for a day of recreation — YOU ARE NOT A FOTKR. You are not a friend of the Kishwaukee River, only some very special people are. They know better. You are drunken peasants. You must be controlled and even banned. You must be “handled” — very positively, of course! FOTKR are “nice” people, really, some are.

This is how the future public relations style of the Forest Preserve District would be according to Tom Hartley, the director of land and development, after the last blow-up about the Roland Olson fiasco: “In light of the public response, we will do a better job in the future to inform and educate people about our land management program. Part of our legislation mandates preserves exist for the ‘enjoyment of the public.’” HA!

Littering and parking problems on the Kish exist, but they have been vastly overblown, and the reaction is reactionary. I’ve seen sober people back their truck into a river at a boat ramp.

A whole year should have been taken to tell people about this upcoming policy and modify it according to everyone’s response for the “enjoyment of the public.” A $500 fine is levied in many places for littering in any way in pristine areas. If everyone was told over the season this was going to happen with warning tickets being passed out at the same time, this whole stupid situation could have been avoided. But some people who think they’re pretty smart do a fine job of displaying the other end of their elected officialdom, as well as the other end of their kayaks.

June 25 is the deadline for filing as a candidate for the three open commissioners’ seats on the WCFPD Board (See story on A7.). Please do file, and look out for the deceptively nice FOTKR.

From the June 13-19, 2012, issue

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