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Midewin: Prairie and people

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I may never fully come to terms with Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.


The 20,000-acre Forest Service site near Wilmington has vast potential. It just seems to take a long time to get there.

But it has slowly transformed since 1996.

On National Public Lands Day on Sept. 25, I make another of my too-rare visits.

In part so I could interview Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell.


I wanted to his take on Midewin, its place and meaning.

It was a good interview with him.

I combined the interview with the visit to Midewin in my weekend column in the Sun-Times.

In reflection, I probably should do more to promote it, too. Starting with visiting more on my own.

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Your new game that you advertise in ther paper "fill in the bank" is bogus! Today, I sent the correct answer using my cell phone, according to your confusing directions, and got a response that you did understand my response. This is an easy way to eliminate potential winner and award prizes as you have pre-planned. You need to fix your game and play fair or stop putting these games in your paper period.

What does your complaint have to do with the subject matter at hand? Try contacting the editor of the paper about stuff like that and respond to the subject matter at hand when on this blog, please.

promise not quite fulfilled.

I went to Midewin Monday, prompted by your column. I overcame the disappointment of my previous visit, probably in 2004 or so, when we "hiked" a mowed hayfield, and then tried to find another better path, and "hiked" a recently harvested cornfield, where at least there was a pretty little farmlane. But really, I could have gotten the same walk by just driving to virtually any actual farming acreage in the state.

This time, we started well enough, launching from the iron bridge parking lot, as you suggested. The prairie there is just gorgeous with asters and goldenrods and various things gone to seed. A little brown snake raced across our path.

We decided against the rhomboid path -- "area 63" or some other forbidding name -- and chose instead to cross the highway on the old railroad bridge. This was leading to the auspiciously named Henslow trail, and I assumed maybe it would be sparrow habitat. But where did we find ourselves? Right back in that same mowed hayfield.

Bucolic is nice. But if one is going to call something a tallgrass prairie, and give prairie-sounding names to trails, at the very least, one ought to mark on the website version of the map that said trail is actually more of an industrial farm trail!

Not your fault at all, Dale. I should have done my homework before we drove down. We weren't helped by the fact that the visitor center was closed for the federal holiday. But sheesh I hope Mr. Tidwell sees this and does something! Two strikes for Midewin. And god, those logistics barns along the edges. I'd think the fertilizer place is in violation of some sort of dust law - the trucks raised so much it was absolutely coating the surrounding land.

Great promise. But 10 years in, they have to do better than this on making it visitor friendly and helping people actually have the kind of experience they purport to offer.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on October 9, 2010 8:25 PM.

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