Cheers to a Memorable Year


Receiving some very happy news in June of 2018!

Like every year that passes, 2018 was filled with little ups and downs as well as moments of great joy and sadness. One particularly happy memory for me this past year is captured above in the photo taken just hours after receiving the news that our covered bridge in Long Grove had been officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The joy that I felt in that moment is something I will never forget. As we move into the new year I am looking forward to seeing progress on the restoration of our iconic bridge, so that it will last for generations to come.

In May of this year, the Historical Society organized and sponsored a children’s art contest for entries featuring our covered bridge. Many of the local public and private schools participated, with students from the Montessori School of Long Grove shown below taking in some up-close inspiration.


Judges from the Long Grove Arts & Music Council awarded prizes in various age categories, with winners receiving gifts donated by our generous historic downtown merchants. The winning entries were showcased at the Covered Bridge Creamery in late May and June.


Pictured below is a lovely winter view of the bridge created by one of the students, a scene that now lives in memory but will hopefully be realized again in holiday seasons yet to come. Best wishes to Long Grove in 2019, and may the joyous memories continue!


Pardon Our Dust

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Anyone who has dared to venture into the Long Grove historic downtown in the past several weeks can tell you that it’s been a challenge navigating around all the various construction obstacles. Storm sewers are being installed, pavement dug out, building foundations reinforced, utilities relocated, roads temporarily closed–you name it–everything is converging into one giant mess of inconvenience. While there has been a fair amount of road work going on since April of this year, crews have recently ramped up the pace in an effort to complete as much as possible before winter sets in and puts an end to the road paving season. The Old McHenry Road reconstruction and intersection improvements project is being undertaken by Lake County DOT. Starting this coming Tuesday, October 9th, at 6 a.m. a portion of Old McHenry Road will be closed to all through traffic with reopening anticipated in November. Click here for more details and to view a map of the detour.

All stores in downtown Long Grove have remained open during the construction, but as you can imagine, with torn up streets and sidewalks it has made getting from place to place an adventure. Shopkeepers that I spoke to this week are drawing on reserves of patience and optimism, and looking forward to brighter days ahead with freshly paved roads and sidewalks, new lighting and streetscaping, and a refreshed look to our historic crossroads. One big change on the horizon is the traffic signal soon to be installed on the corner of Old McHenry Road and Robert Parker Coffin Road.

The construction this summer has been a hardship on not just the Long Grove businesses, but for all those who need to commute through the area en route to jobs and schools. In addition, the local non-profit community groups have had to alter or cancel activities and fundraisers due to the disruption. The Arts & Music Council held an abbreviated concert series this summer due to work scheduled near Towner Green. The Rotary Club was unable to hold their annual Heritage Run this September and have replaced it with an Octoberfest fundraiser at Buffalo Creek Brewing this coming Saturday, October 6th. The Historical Society has unfortunately had to cancel their popular Ghost Walk this year due to safety concerns with walking groups of families in the construction zone amidst the Halloween darkness, detours, and pedestrian restricted areas. A much smaller (but still spooky) family event is being planned at the farmhouse on the evening of October 26th.

So what can we all do to help our village during the next couple of difficult months? Make it a point to patronize the downtown restaurants, shop for gifts in the local stores, pick up your morning latte at one of our downtown coffee shops instead of cruising the drive thru just because it is more convenient. Continue to contribute to our local non-profits, even if their signature fundraisers have been temporarily sidelined. By supporting each other our community can sustain through the construction disruption. In the meantime, pardon our dust, because one day soon this construction will all be in the past and the improvements will be well worth the wait!

Rising Up for Preservation

Fundraising efforts to support saving the covered bridge now exceed $50,000 in donations and pledges.

The fundraising campaign to save the covered bridge now exceeds $50,000 in donations and pledges.

The Village of Long Grove was featured recently in two Chicago Tribune stories (see links below) and both articles spoke of the current efforts by the community to get our covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, several fundraising efforts are underway to generate private donations to help offset the public funds that must be allocated to pay for preservation of our iconic bridge. More and more concerned community members are becoming involved with efforts to keep our one-lane bridge by signing the online petition, purchasing raffle tickets, making donations to the covered bridge fund, and speaking up in support of preservation at community events and gatherings. The gauge at the downtown crossroads will be updated soon to show that private efforts have now surpassed the halfway mark of the goal of raising $100K in donations and pledges to save our historic bridge. More information on ways to help can be found by visiting

After the bridge was ultimately recommended by the historians on the State of Illinois review committee, the Historical Society was expecting to hear earlier this month from the National Park Service regarding the application to be placed on the National Register. A request came for more documentation pertaining to the scarcity of this type of bridge in our area of Illinois and it’s local significance. The listing process is iterative, with each draft of the application being reviewed by a new historian who brings individual interests and experiences into what is significant and worthy of elaboration. The federal application itself plays a role in documenting our national history, so all involved in the process want to take their time and get it right. With this being the last level of review, the end is now in sight even if it takes a bit longer than desired to get there. More information on this topic can be found at

This past weekend my husband and I took a drive up to Michigan to enjoy the fall colors, and we purposefully visited the town of Allegan, Michigan to see their one-lane iron truss bridge over the Kalamazoo River. Built in 1886, this bridge was almost lost in 1979 when rehabilitation was deemed more costly than replacement with a two-lane federally funded structure. The local community rallied and got the Second Street Bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Because the bridge was not a critical transportation corridor, Allegan city officials were able to persuade the federal government in 1981 to fund rehabilitation, even though the project would not meet the federal standards. The bridge is beautiful, with a pedestrian walkway decorated with iron latticework and end post finials. It is a centerpiece and source of pride for the small town and is featured in the logo for the city of Allegan.

This story and it’s positive outcome and correlations to Long Grove make me hopeful. But we all know that for every historic bridge that has been saved, many, many more have perished. I truly hope that the story history writes years from now about our Long Grove covered bridge will be a happy one.

Links to newspaper articles:

The Little Bridge That Could

R to L: Historic Downtown Long Grove President Ryan Messner, Andrew Heckenkamp from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Aaron Underwood, from the Long Grove Historical Society worked together today to advocate for placing the covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

L to R: Historic Downtown Long Grove President Ryan Messner, Andrew Heckenkamp from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Aaron Underwood, from the Long Grove Historical Society worked together today to advocate for placing the covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was a victory in Springfield today for Long Grove! The esteemed historians and archaeologists who make up the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council just dumped a big bucket of awesome sauce on our covered bridge by voting unanimously to recommend it to the National Register of Historic Places. Aaron Underwood, Past President of the Long Grove Historical Society, was instrumental in preparing the 35 page application, and spoke on the merits of this landmark before the board at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. The bridge, which dates from 1906, qualified because of the steel “pony truss” construction unique to that time period, as well as the original and ornate pedestrian walkway, which is still intact. The nostalgic cover was added in 1972, and according to the experts at the meeting today, might be eligible in five years for historic status on this feature as well. The next step in the process is approval by the National Park Service, which administers the National Register.

It was a thrill and an honor to be in Springfield today to witness our beloved bridge advance one giant step further towards this respected status. The Village has tried several times over the years to achieve this recognition, most recently in 2014, while I was Village President. But just like the “little engine that could,” we kept on trying, and finally with enough persistence, diligence, research and hard work, it looks like we might just be able to achieve the goal this time. Our application now moves on to Washington and in about six to eight weeks we expect to hear back with the news of final placement on the national list. We think we can, we think we can do it! Continue to keep your fingers crossed.

Here’s the Daily Herald article that appeared online on June 30:

An Unforgettable Experience

Being interviewed live by anchor Jeff  on Fox Business News in February, 2014.

Being interviewed live by anchor Jeff Flock on Fox Business News in February, 2014.

Now that I am winding down to my last few weeks in office, friends have been inquiring about what experiences I will remember most from my time as Village President. One memory that is forever burned into my brain is the referendum in Spring of 2014, when the residents were asked if they wanted to authorize a tax to pay for repairs to our thoroughfare roads in Long Grove. As it turned out, they didn’t. But the weeks leading up to election day and the month or so following were truly unforgettable. And the resulting experience of being interviewed, live, on a national network news channel stands out as a highlight. Here’s how it happened:

The 2014 referendum question had received quite a large amount of media attention, with a featured article appearing on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, and additional coverage by the Daily Herald and Crain’s Chicago Business. I was interviewed live on the radio by several local stations, including NPR. All of this caught the eye of FOX Business News, who came to Long Grove on a very snowy President’s Day in February of 2014. Throughout the day, as the snowflakes drifted down into a white-out blizzard, I was interviewed live for four separate segments, at different locations in the Village. The first spot was filmed in front of the covered bridge, but the subsequent three interviews were filmed live while I was driving the news team’s truck over our Long Grove roads, simultaneously answering questions, during an escalating snowstorm. I will never forget the reality TV challenge of giving articulate answers to the reporter’s questions while driving an unfamiliar truck as I pumped the brakes to stop skidding onto Route 53 and knowing that this was being broadcast live. I think I surprised everyone–staff, news crew, and myself–that I was able to pull this whole thing off and get everyone and the truck back to Village Hall in one piece. When it was all said and done I was dubbed “a real trouper” and I will say that it was a true lesson in grace under pressure!

3,500 voices of Long Grove supporters help to Save The Bridge


The voices of many in the Long Grove Community Church were heard at the February 14th Village Board meeting.

The passionate voices of many were heard in the Long Grove Community Church during the February 14th Village Board meeting. Church members were very gracious in hosting us and even provided Valentine’s Day themed treats and refreshments!

On Valentine’s Day, passion is a good thing. The love shown for our covered bridge by over 3500 petition signers and 150 attendees at the February 14th Village Board meeting proved strong enough to sway our six Trustees to move towards preserving our local landmark. After weeks of “Save the Bridge” efforts by our downtown merchants, residents, and the Long Grove Historical Society, the Village Board voted in an informal straw poll to discontinue spending any more time and money looking into demolishing the one-lane bridge and building a new two lane bridge to conform to federal standards.

This action came after the Village learned late last week that the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has deemed our 1906 covered bridge eligible to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This is great news for all of Long Grove and opens up the future possibility of grants and other funding sources for preservation. In addition, during public comment the largest property owner in our historic downtown, Gerald Forsythe, pledged to donate $25,000 to kick-start restoration efforts, and called on the community to create a private fund.

This week, I have had the pleasure of hearing the grateful voices of two prominent Long Grove residents who were active in efforts to preserve the bridge back in 1973, when the wooden covering was added. Both Barbara Reed Turner and Robert Parker Coffin made personal requests to me to “Save the Bridge,” and between passionate public expression, notice of historic status, and pledges of financial support, I think we may have just granted their wishes.

To watch a video of the 2/14/2017 Village Board meeting click here:

To read an article published by the Chicago Tribune on 2/15/2017 click here:

To read an article published in the Daily Herald on 2/15/2017 click here:

A picture speaks a thousand words. Long Grove merchants John Kopecky and Ryan Messner show their support at the meeting.

A picture speaks a thousand words. Long Grove merchants John Kopecky and Ryan Messner show their support at the meeting.

A Bridge Too Far?

The iconic covered bridge in historic downtown Long Grove is a symbol of our village around the globe.

The iconic covered bridge in historic downtown Long Grove is a symbol of our village around the globe.

At the beginning of this year, The Daily Herald asked Lake County mayors: What are you most looking forward to your town accomplishing/doing/changing in 2017? My response highlighted several infrastructure improvements slated to begin this year, such as Old McHenry Road resurfacing and streetscaping in the downtown crossroads. I ended with, “And most significantly, I look forward to input and direction from our residents, through open houses and public hearing participation, on the course of action that our Village Board should take regarding the reconstruction of our iconic covered bridge.” Well, ask and you shall receive!

The Historic Downtown Long Grove Association (our local “chamber of commerce”), in cooperation with members of the Long Grove Community Church, Long Grove Montessori School, Long Grove Historical Society, and concerned area residents have launched an initiative to “Save the Bridge.” As of yesterday, a petition on (click here to view) was started, and has gathered at the time of this writing over 1000 signatures. It has been overwhelming to see the beautiful memories and tributes flooding in from Long Grove residents, and those all over the country who grew up in Long Grove or remember visits to our town in years past. Our historic, one-lane covered bridge is even receiving love from such far-flung places as Norway, Japan, Ireland and Vatican City.

Why all the fuss? The covered bridge, which has iron truss supports dating back to 1906, is aging and needs replacement or a major rebuild. (click here for more history on the bridge) After years of study by prior and current Village Boards, the Trustees will be making a decision this year on whether to replace the bridge exactly as it currently looks, with a one-lane configuration, or to accept federal funding in exchange for building to federal standards, which require a two-lane traffic flow. It will be less costly to our village finances to accept the federal dollars, however the Village will still be responsible for 20% of the cost of this option. If the bridge is simply rebuilt to the current appearance it will be entirely on the Village’s dime. The Village Board has foreseen this expense coming for many years, and has earmarked funds in a capital budget for the bridge. (Click here for a recent newspaper article with more details)

The push and pull comes down to fiscal vs. tradition vs. safety. Many Trustees are supportive of the demolition and reconstruction to two-lane in exchange for saving money. Others want to keep the quaint appeal and favor the traffic calming effects of the one-lane in a heavy pedestrian area. I have stated previously that I have a soft spot for our charming covered bridge. I like it just the way it is and see no need to expand it to two lanes. I am firmly in agreement with those signing the online petitions–I love our covered bridge.

The Trustees have directed the village engineers to start the process for the federal funding option, which is a multi-year effort. Studies have been made, and are ongoing this Spring. In May, the Village is planning a public open house to further gather community input. A definite decision will be made after that time. Or maybe sooner if the public outcry is loud enough? Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.

January 11, 2017 UPDATE:  Click here for an article published today in The Daily Herald

January 12, 2017 UPDATE:  Click here for a piece from WBBM radio

January 13, 2017 UPDATE: Click here for an article published today by The Chicago Tribune

January 19, 2017 UPDATE: Click here for another article published by The Daily Herald

Tapping into the Future–Part 2

The expansion of our municipal water system has enabled two new things to come to our downtown--water hydrants and Buffalo Creek Brewing!

The expansion of our municipal water system has enabled two new things to come to our downtown–water hydrants and Buffalo Creek Brewing!

In July of 2015 I wrote a blog post about the expansion of our Long Grove water system, entitled Tapping into the Future. Fifteen months after our Village Board approved the preliminary engineering contract, we now have fire hydrants in the historic downtown! The construction crews have been busy working all summer and fall to extend access to public water, and the new infrastructure is now in place. In the next 30 days the system is expected to be pressurized.

Bringing quality water from the deep well at Sunset Foods into the downtown has been a long-term goal and priority of many individuals who have served on the Village Board. The Trustees who came before me had the initial vision, and through the years numerous Boards have been diligently working towards opportunities to make this a reality. The sale earlier this year of the four lots on Archer Road and the development of the Harbor Chase assisted living community at Routes 53 and 83 have helped fund this capital project, with tap in fees and future water usage charges to fund the system going forward. The additional water supply will now provide better fire safety for our historic buildings, and help retain and attract new businesses to Long Grove.

And we are already starting to see some results! The former Red Oaks property is under new ownership and being converted into a Fred Astaire dance studio and grand ballroom. Just behind on Historical Lane, in the home of the former Studio of Long Grove art gallery, Buffalo Creek Brewing is finalizing plans for a craft brewing operation, taproom, beer garden, and eventual banquet facility. The Village Board recently approved zoning, special use permits, and liquor licenses to put this in motion. The brewery will obviously be a heavy water consumer, and both new businesses have made a financial commitment to connect to the new water system.

Doing large scale infrastructure improvements in Long Grove is a particular challenge; we levy no municipal property tax so borrowing money to fund the improvements up front is difficult. But now that the downtown revitalization ball has started to roll, I have every expectation that it will gain more and more momentum in the months and years ahead. We are continuing to make progress towards the future, and by “tapping” into our resources….who knows how many more opportunities will start to flow?

Ask The Mayor

Responding to a resident question at a recent meeting in Village Hall.

Responding to a resident question at a recent meeting in Village Hall.

One of the things that I do on a regular basis as Village President is respond to questions from our residents. Hardly a day goes by when I am not interacting either by email, phone, traditional letter, or in person with someone who has a question, concern, complaint, compliment, or problem that they would like for me to solve. By and large, I enjoy working with the public and this desire to be of service was the main motivation for me to run for office. Of course, we all know there are individuals in every community who can be difficult and think nothing of treating elected officials with disdain. But the vast majority of residents that I hear from simply seek to understand, and it is satisfying to know that I can usually help. Below is an example of a recent inquiry I received, about the lack of sidewalks in Long Grove, and my response:

President Underwood,

I have lived in Long Grove my entire life, and I have not yet involved myself in the Village’s proceedings. Recently, though, I began to wonder why Long Grove does not have any public sidewalks or pathways. When I asked around, no one seemed to have a sufficient answer. Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove, and many other surrounding towns, have sidewalks. Has there ever been talk of building sidewalks or pathways along the roads, or at least along the major roads, of Long Grove? I would be able to walk or bike to local stores if these were available, but as the roads are now, it is simply too dangerous to leave my driveway without driving. I believe our village would be much safer and healthier if we were provided with viable sidewalks along our roads.

I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of the benefits of public sidewalks. Implementing the sidewalks would probably entail massive construction operations at a large cost. What is the main factor restricting Long Grove from building sidewalks?

If possible I would love to be involved with any progress in this area.

Thank you for your time!”

My response:

“Dear (name withheld for privacy),

I am a big fan of the many walking trails in and around Long Grove, and I would love to see more sidewalks for connectivity. The reason you don’t find many public sidewalks is due to our minimal form of government set forth in 1956 when the village government was established. Long Grove provides only minimal services to the residents (no large scale water & sewer, police protection through the county sheriff, majority of roads are private or state & county owned, etc…) and in return for this we pay no Long Grove property tax. Since the village does not levy any property tax, our income is very limited and consists of mostly sales tax income, building permit fees, and small miscellaneous revenues from things like fines, vehicle stickers, and video gaming. We do receive some income through the state of Illinois such as motor fuel tax and LDGF funds, but these are very precarious given the state’s current financial woes. You are correct in your thoughts about the large costs of building sidewalks. At this stage, it presents a real challenge to a village with a very limited income. Your examples of Buffalo Grove and Lincolnshire both charge a local tax, and this allows them to have a larger municipal budget for infrastructure such as sidewalks. The village tried putting forward a referendum two years ago asking for a small tax earmarked to pay for maintenance for our public roads, and it was defeated by 80 percent of those who voted.

All that said, we do have many public walking paths that have been required in all new developments starting in the late 1980’s. The goal is to one day get all these neighborhood paths connected, and we have a village pathways committee that meets quarterly and helps to advance this. We have had engineering done on a sidewalk to run from Heron’s Creek forest preserve all the way to downtown Long Grove on the west side of Old McHenry Road. Fifteen years ago the cost of this was well over a million dollars, and we did get some partial funding awarded from the state through a grant that the village submitted. This grant money has since been withdrawn due to the efforts by the state of Illinois to cut costs. The village has been supportive of the state’s efforts to complete the widening and improvement of Route 22, and a sidewalk along the south side from Rt 83 to Old McHenry Road is in the plans. The village asked for this and will be committing 20 percent of the funds for this pathway. Because of financial reasons with the state, this project keeps getting pushed further into the future, last I heard we are looking at somewhere beyond 2020 for completion. Aptakisic Road is being widened by the county, and sidewalks have been included on both sides in the plan as requested by Long Grove. So the village is trying to get these improvements made when we can, as county and state roads through our village are widened.

One thing you could do to get involved is to attend a village board meeting, and let your thoughts be known during public comment. Every year the board sets an annual budget, and if enough residents speak up more money could be allocated to pathways. You could also join the pathways committee–we are always looking for additional community volunteers. I first joined this committee fifteen years ago and look at where I ended up! Seriously though, let me know if you are interested, and I promise no one will coerce you into running for Village President.

If you want to know more please give me a call and I will be happy to answer your questions. Thanks for reaching out to me and for your concern in making our community an even better place to live.


Village President Underwood”


A Big Announcement

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Earlier today a press release was issued by our Lake County Board Chairman, Aaron Lawlor, explaining his current thoughts on the Route 53/120 Extension Project. A key supporter of the project since the Blue Ribbon Advisory Report (BRAC)was adopted in 2012, Chairman Lawlor now believes that due to “dynamics that have changed over the past several months, it has become clear that the financial and political realities have become insurmountable.” A main concern is that “critical environmental and community protections will be cut in an effort to minimize costs.” In addition, he fears that the situation “will only get worse the longer gridlock persists in Springfield. Legislators cannot agree in the short-term on a budget to fund essential services let alone have the long-term vision to enact the legislation necessary to form the environmental stewardship fund, which is a key component of the Route 53/120 project.”

For decades, the proposed path of this road extension has been slated to run through Long Grove. Our community has opposed this project for many years and the Village Board passed a resolution this past October reaffirming this position. Having our County Board Chairman come out today suggesting that “the best thing for Lake County would be to stop the Environmental Impact Statement and refocus our attention on a sustainable vision for the current Route 53/120 corridor and plan for necessary improvements to our County’s current transportation network,” was big news to everyone following this issue.

Chairman Lawlor called me this morning before the news went public and while I was surprised by the announcement, I was not shocked. When I first took office, Aaron and I met for breakfast and I was very frank about my concerns about this project, that I was personally not in support of it and worried about the financial obstacles of building it in a way that would protect our sensitive environmental areas in Long Grove. Chairman Lawlor stated that he was adamant that the Tollway and IDOT adhere to the enhanced environmental standards identified in the BRAC report, and in his mind these were non-negotiable. These recommendations set more aggressive standards for stormwater management, light and noise pollution, water quality, plant and wildlife health, salt spray and other important safeguards. Since that first meeting, these sentiments have been reiterated over and over in our conversations about this project. I believed Chairman Lawlor when he pledged to pull back his support if he felt the Tollway or IDOT was not living up to their commitments. The integrity shown today was not a surprise.

I feel that it shows great strength to thoughtfully reconsider a position on an issue, and make a new decision in light of current information. This is a character trait that I think we all want in our leaders. It takes courage to try and change course once the journey has gotten underway, and endure the criticism that is sure to come. Elected officials are often faced with tough choices. I am grateful that our County is served by those deserving of our sincere trust and respect.