Boone County Conservation District celebrates 50 years Nov. 1

Staff Report

BELVIDERE, Illinois — The Boone County Conservation District (BCCD) will host a 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere, Illinois, Nov. 1. Evening festivities begin at 6 p.m. and will include a one-man play, Aldo Leopold — A Standard of Change, starring Jim Pfitzer of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a program highlighting 50 years of conservation in Boone County. Dinner menu includes baked herb chicken, roast beef, salad, mixed vegetables, wild rice, rosemary potatoes, rolls and dessert.

Ticket price is $30 per person for dinner and the play.

The Apollo Theatre is at 104 N. State St., Belvidere, Illinois.

Contact the BCCD office to purchase tickets or for more information at (815) 547-7935.

Boone County Conservation District history

Fifty years ago, on Nov. 4, 1964, the Boone County Conservation District was founded. The first conservation district in the state of Illinois, BCCD was begun with a concern for the fate of the old Rainbow Gardens site just east of Belvidere. Belvidere Jaycees began a search for ways of using the site as a wayside park. Upon investigation by Jaycee member attorney David Babb, a newly passed law, the Illinois Conservation District Act, was found to be the best possible method to ensure a future conservation area and open space system for the entire county.

A brief, but furious, campaign complete with campaign buttons saw the Nov. 4, 1964, election passing the required referendum to establish the first Conservation District in Illinois.

George Fell of Rockford, the “father” of the Illinois Conservation District Act, was called upon to assist in organizing and providing direction for the new district. As director of the non-profit Natural Land Institute (NLI), Fell agreed to have the NLI absorb the BCCD’s operating expenses for several months until the district was able to financially operate on its own, then repay the NLI.

March 1, 1968, the BCCD hired its first executive director, Roger Gustafson. Gustafson was the first State Park Naturalist in the state of Illinois, was assistant to the director at the NLI from 1967 to 1968, and was the executive director of the BCCD from March 1968 until June 1992.

Since its inception, the BCCD has grown to encompass more than 3,500 acres and 25-plus conservation areas. It took 48 years until the Rainbow Gardens site was finally owned by the BCCD.

Posted Oct. 29, 2014

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