The Prairie Rivers Network is hosting a fun filled celebration of their 50 years of protecting Illinois waters. Though this will be the first event at Allerton Park, the PRN has a long-standing history with them. I spoke with Jeff Kohmstedt, the communications and outreach coordinator for PRN, and he explained their grassroots beginning. 

Kohmstedt states, “A dam was to be built that would have caused flooding in Allerton Park.” According to the PRN website, it would've caused over 100 acres to be under water. Many years and over 20,000 signatures later, a group of concerned citizens, led by Bruce and Patricia Hannon and dubbed "The Committee on Allerton Park" stopped the dam. It was out of these efforts that the Prairie Rivers Network was formed. You can read more about the saga of the dam in PRN's 40th anniversary history booklet.

Though it’s gone through a few name changes over it’s 50 year history, it’s mission has remained “To work to protect IL rivers; for people, fish and wildlife.” Kohmstedt says,“in 2016 they stopped a levee in Southern Illinois that would’ve impacted 50,000 acres of wetlands”. They are currently focusing on Middle Fork. “Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal for energy, that contains dangerous elements has been placed in a pit right next to Middle Fork which could contaminate the river.”*

You definitely don’t want to miss out on this is a free event filled with outside elements, entertainment and education. Dust off your picnic basket and bring a lunch to enjoy before you start off on the guided nature walk by Rob Kanter, a local Environmental Almanac writer and photographer and PRN board member followed by a bird walk with David Thomas. Kids will enjoy playing lawn games and the traveling science center, provided by the University of Illinois Natural History Department, where they will learn about the different varieties of wildlife in Illinois. There will also be a performance of The Water Project, a play that explores how our relationship with water has changed over the years. Following the play there will be local honey and bread tastings as well as an art and photography exhibit, honoring the Sangamon River and wildlife of East Central IL.

The conclusion of the celebration will be a multimedia show honoring the 50 years of stewardship of the Prairie Rivers Network, including a reading from Amy Hassinger’s novel, After the Dam and video interviews with PRN founder Bruce Hannon and long-time members John Marlin and Jack Paxton reflecting on a lifetime of river and land stewardship that has helped shape the path of Prairie Rivers Network.

This is an opportunity to gather and celebrate the accomplishments of the Prairie Rivers Network and their long history of stewardship of our local waters. And what better place to do it than back where it all began.

The good to know info:

Follow the event on Facebook here.
Located at the Music Barn at Allerton Park May 21st 12-4p.m. 

Schedule:

12:00 p.m.

  • Picnic
  • Guided Nature
  • Guided Birding Walk
  • Traveling Science Center

2:00 p.m.

  • The Water Project performance

2:30 p.m.

  • Sample locally-produced honey and local artisanal grain breads.
  • Art and photography exhibit by local artists and photographers.

3:00 p.m.

  • Multimedia Reflection

Want to support Prairie Rivers Network? Make a donation!

Photos from Prairie Rivers network Facebook page and website.

*This statement was edited from the previous version which stated the ash "is being put into a pit" to reflect the fact that this has already occurred.