A Bit Further Down the Path

My favorite walking buddy, Aaron Underwood, tests out the new pathway segment.

My favorite walking buddy, Aaron Underwood, tests out the new pathway segment.

With the recent completion of another trail segment, our Long Grove pathway system is one step closer to making a connection to Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve. Several years ago, when the sewer lines were put in for the Menard’s development, the Village took the opportunity to have a pathway installed on South Schaeffer Road. This north-south path runs almost the whole southern length of our village, and is considered a “spine” in the system to eventually link all neighborhoods to the historic downtown. Starting at Schaeffer Road and Route 53, the path had previously ended at Checker Road. The plan has been for this path to connect into the Lake County Forest Preserves pathways at Buffalo Creek, but making that final connection has proven very costly. Surprisingly, pathways are very expensive to engineer and construct–it’s almost like building mini roads. This is why most paths are created as part of a new housing development, or added by taking advantage of the opportunities created when roads are widened or infrastructure added.

The Village had applied and received some grant money from the State of Illinois, but it was only enough to get halfway there with the connection. By working with our counterparts on the Lake County Forest Preserves Board, we have been able to partner with them and they have committed to adding a path that connects where ours currently ends, linking the Village system with the one in Buffalo Creek. So even though the path currently looks like it dead-ends halfway, it will eventually connect to the Forest Preserve when they undertake their enhancements.

Pathways are one feature that our residents consistently advocate for, and we have a Village Pathways Committee that meets monthly to make headway on this initiative. This weekend, my husband and I went out to check out the new path and give it a spin. We’re getting closer to making that final connection to the Forest Preserve, one step at a time!

Captive to the Keyboard

In my home office, where I spend several hours each day responding to email and blogging!

In my home office, where I spend several hours each day responding to email and/or blogging!

One of my Trustees said to me recently, “Angie, it’s great that you like writing so much.” Actually, sometimes I really dislike writing. I often procrastinate when I have to write an article for the Village newsletter. Writing a formal letter or email response to a resident sometimes takes me five times longer than it should. Writing a speech can be agony. And coming up with topics for Long Grove Living articles is sometimes really a challenge. Like many jobs, my job as Village President involves a large amount of writing. Because of this, I was hesitant to add to the workload by committing to maintaining a blog.

But to my surprise, I love being a blogger. I guess it’s not that different than keeping a journal, and I have throughout different stages in life kept diaries, journals, and scrapbooks. In many ways, this is the digital version of keeping a record of my days, except that it is shared with everyone on the internet. Not that anyone on the internet would care to read my 16 year old dramas in exquisite detail, but you get the similarity.

When I asked my colleague why he thought I liked writing so much, he said “because you’re so good at it.” I have never really considered myself a good writer. I am an avid reader though, and maybe some of the millions of beautiful words and phrases I’ve consumed over the years have somehow rubbed off on me. Also, being proficient at a skill doesn’t necessarily correlate to liking it–such as mopping the floor or changing a diaper!

The writing that I get to create as a blogger is much more enjoyable though, because I get to use my own voice. When I write a piece as the Village President, I have to be so very careful of the tone and political correctness, because I am representing the entire community in what I say. In my blog entries I get to be Angie, and what you read is coming from my own point of view. It is infinitely easier to write when you can just be yourself, and hopefully some of my personality is coming through as well. There is always the risk that someone will be offended when being sincere and honest. But that is the beauty of the blog–no one is forcing you to read this. It is not an officially endorsed Village Communication.

I am very grateful for the feedback that I have gotten from my posts here since starting this new project, most have been positive and supportive. If you will keep reading, I will keep blogging about the never-ending ways in which I am surprised, delighted, and challenged by this crazy job as mayor. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of stories to tell!

Is it Lawn or is it Prairie?

Open space in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

Open space in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

Most municipalities have rules and regulations regarding property maintenance and in particular, standards for keeping a tidy yard. But Long Grove is not like most municipalities. Our community includes many acres of forest preserve, park district lands, and platted conservancy, which are protected through county and state regulations. In addition to this, many privately owned lots in our Village have been partially or fully maintained as open space prairie. Residents have seeded these areas with native plants, and hold the occasional controlled burns suggested for best management.  Many of these natural areas are adjoining platted conservancy, so that there is no distinction where lawn ends and open space begins.

Nevertheless, I was surprised to learn this summer that we have an ordinance restricting the height of grass and weeds on private property to 8 inches. Prior to 2009, this rule did not exist, due to the unique nature of our local open spaces as described above. But after the economic crash in 2008 and the subsequent default of properties to banks and other agencies, exterior property maintenance became a concern. The “tall grass” restriction has been successfully used by our staff to keep vacant properties from becoming an eyesore, in the few instances where it was needed. Until recently.

Disputes between neighbors happen, even in friendly towns like Long Grove. Complaints ensued, and unfortunately this ordinance was used to force a resident to mow a large unbuilt lot that was being maintained as open space. As a result, our Village Board took a look at this rule at our past meeting, with an eye on making it more compatible with the character of our community. When is it a lawn, and when is it a prairie? Is Long Grove a better place with less milkweed for the monarchs to find? We will revisit the distinctions on our upcoming agenda, with the goal being to craft standards that can be more practically applied.

I do know one thing. Lawn or prairie, the wildflowers they contain this time of year are gorgeous!

Golden Girl

Girl Scout Erin McDermott in the butterfly garden she has created at Reed Turner.

Girl Scout Erin McDermott in the butterfly garden she has created at Reed Turner.

One of the more enjoyable things that I get to do as Village President is to recognize students for their achievements. Today I was honored to meet Erin McDermott, who is completing her Gold Award project for Girl Scouts here in Long Grove at Reed Turner Woodland and Nature Center. Many of us are familiar with the Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouting. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest honor that can be achieved, and 2016 marks it’s 100th anniversary.

For Erin’s project, she chose to restore a prairie and install a butterfly garden and sitting area at the Woodland. This afternoon she held a ribbon cutting ceremony, education session, and open house to unveil the restored garden to the public. I was lucky enough to get a personal tour by Erin, and see the beautiful wildflowers and benches she has created on which to sit and contemplate nature. It is a great enhancement to an already wonderful community treasure.

In today’s world, our kids have so many choices about how they want to spend their time. I want to thank Erin for giving of her time to make our community a little bit better. I was happy today to congratulate her for sharing what she has learned, and for her recent accomplishments.  And, I will be making some trips back in the months ahead to check for more butterflies!


All Our Ducks in a Row

Outside the Long Grove Info Center with  LGBCP Director Sharon Fine

Outside the Long Grove Info Center with LGBCP Director Sharon Fine

This summer Long Grove has given a temporary home to some cute and colorful visitors to our downtown “Visitors’ Center” at the crossroads. The giant yellow duckies pictured above have been lined up to provide a friendly and welcoming spot for a photo opportunity. The Long Grove Confectionery was doing a little spring cleaning this year, and these lucky-ducks ended up being adopted by the downtown merchants instead of waddling off to the landfill. If nothing else, they bring a welcome smile to my face when I cruise through town.

What is our Visitors’ Center used for anyway? Well, it serves as a home base, office, and upstairs meeting room for the Long Grove Business and Community Partners (LGBCP). This summer marks two years that the group has been at this location on the main crossroads of Old McHenry Road and Robert Parker Coffin Road.  Director Sharon Fine and her assistant Dana keep our historic business district running from day to day, help promote tourism and economic development, and play a major part in planning and organizing the festivals and special events that Long Grove is known for. And of course they provide a cheerful welcome to the many shoppers and visitors who stop by on a regular basis. It surprised me to learn that we have so many international tourists and visitors who make the trip out to our part of Lake County. This is also the spot to pick up a piece of Long Grove merchandise–who doesn’t need more coffee mugs?

If the ducks stick around into the fall, can we dress them up as scarecrows? I definitely suggest Santa suits if they make it to the holidays!

Congratulations, Madame President!

Congratulating Sarah Knight on her installation as President of the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer, and Hawthorn Woods.

Congratulating Sara Knight on her installation as President of the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer, and Hawthorn Woods.

Those people who know me also know that I believe in the value of women as leaders. I think that our country could benefit by having more women in the male-dominated field of politics. I am fortunate to have many like-minded voters in our area of Lake County to support this view, as our two closest neighbors, Kildeer and Buffalo Grove also have female mayors. Last month, I was honored to attend the installation ceremony of the new President of the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer, and Hawthorn Woods. It was as recently as 1989 that Rotary International voted to first allow women to join this community service group. Sara Knight is now serving her second term as our local club president. No stranger to leading groups of men, Sara is the owner and President of her own Engineering firm. On top of working full-time and making a major volunteer commitment to Rotary, Sara and her husband are also busy raising two elementary-age children.

Last week the Chicago Tribune had an article on the front of the business section titled “trails yet to be blazed by women.” The NFL has just hired its first female coach, Jen Welter of the Arizona Cardinals. But also listed were some top jobs that a woman has never occupied:  CEO of a top U.S. bank (as measured by assets), Librarian of Congress, U.N. Secretary-General, Chief Justice of the United States, Director of the CIA, Director of the FBI, Vice President and President of the United States.

So it seems that despite our local success, there is still some progress to be made nationally. I am confident that with women like Sara leading the way, our daughters have an even brighter future of opportunities awaiting them.