Hayrake Trail

Grovetrotter walking group member Jane Primack at the entrance to the Hayrake Trail.

Grovetrotter walking group member Jane Primack at the entrance to the Hayrake Trail.

Thanks to the hard work of a Long Grove Eagle Scout, one of our neighborhood pathway trails was recently extended and restored. Known as the Hayrake Trail, this path along Indian Creek starts on Port Clinton Road and runs north, just to the east of the Com Ed right of way. This path is attractive for a variety of reasons:  it contains woodland wildflowers, winds alongside a lovely creek, features benches on which to rest, and a vintage artifact (old hayrake salvaged from the creek) as a point of interest. But my personal favorite feature of this trail is that it is entirely in the shade. And on the hot and humid August day that I recently hiked it along with my fellow Grovetrotters, that shade was most welcome!

We have Stevenson High School Senior William Jacob to thank for this, as he was the most recent local Boy Scout to choose the Hayrake Trail as his Eagle Scout project. William and his crew of volunteers spent several workdays this summer hauling mulch and clearing brush to restore the front section of the trail, and then extended the trail further north towards an eventual connection to Oakwood Road. In addition, William added a wooden entrance sign to the trail (pictured above) which is visible from Port Clinton Road so that residents can more easily access this community path. William was thanked for his service to the Village and the Park District at the August 9th Village Board Meeting, pictured below.

Long Grove is a community that depends on volunteers to step forward when needed to maintain and improve our many beautiful open spaces. Congratulations to William for gaining some valuable leadership skills, and at the same time giving all of us one more shady spot to appreciate the wonders of nature.

Honoring students at our August 9th Village Board Meeting: (L to R) Ted Tapas, Stevenson High School State  Championship Men's Bowling Team Captain, Dave Lothspeich, Village Manager, Angie Underwood, Eagle Scout William Jacob.

Honoring students at our August 9th Village Board Meeting: (L to R) Ted Tapas, Stevenson High School State Championship Men’s Bowling Team Captain; Dave Lothspeich, Village Manager; Angie Underwood, Village President; Eagle Scout William Jacob.

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”


Woodland Wonders

Beautiful woodland flowers such as these bluebells are blooming this week at Reed-Turner Woodland.

Beautiful flowers such as these bluebells carpet the ground this time of year at Reed-Turner Woodland in Long Grove.

Last Friday marked the end of a hectic workweek, and I needed to go someplace to relax and mull over a few Village concerns tossing about in my mind. Since it was about as perfect of a Spring day as we get here in Long Grove, I decided to take a stroll through one of my favorite places–Reed Turner Woodland Nature Preserve. Early May is an ideal time to experience this local treasure because a majority of the native Illinois wildflowers are in bloom and it is simply glorious! With the redbud trees flowering alongside the phlox, violets, and Virginia bluebells, the palette of purples at the moment is stunning. Some of the other woodland varieties that I spotted blooming right now include: trout lily, jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apples, and red and white trillium. Several years ago, resident Kathy Wiberg trained me to be a guide at the preserve so that I could lead groups on field trips, and to this day I appreciate knowing the names and stories of so many wonders to be found in the woodland.

But to me, the greater beauty of Reed-Turner Woodland is intangible; it’s not the flowers but rather the serenity of the setting. The first visit I make in the Spring always gob-smacks me with the grandeur of nature and my own insignificance. I came to the preserve this particular day to let the woodland comfort me and to be reminded why I love Long Grove so much. At times, that can be a challenge. I have a favorite bench that sits up high on the ravine, overlooking the curving creekbed below. Our recent Spring rains have left a gentle but steady flow of water over the rocks and fallen limbs, and the murmur of this never fails to soothe my soul. For me, this is a tranquil place where I sometimes ask silent questions. And if I can calm my mind enough to allow peace to come, I will usually hear some answers.

This 36 acres of high quality biological diversity was given to the community many years ago by the Reed-Turner family and in the 1980’s was dedicated as an Illinois State Nature Preserve. The property is currently maintained and restored by the Long Grove Park District, with Barbara Reed-Turner still leading the way for preservation with her ongoing spirit and love for the land. When I need some personal inspiration to keep going, she is one of the residents that I most often think of.

This coming weekend, May 14th and 15th, the Long Grove & Kildeer Garden Club will be holding their annual native plant sale at the log-cabin Nature Center located at Reed-Turner. In addition to knowing that you are supporting the major fundraiser for our local community group (which sponsors a Stevenson High School scholarship and paid summer internships at the Woodland), you can rest assured that the plants for sale will work in your Northern Illinois yard, because they all come from local gardens. If you are interested in visiting the plant sale (I’ll be working on Sunday from 10-12–come say hello!) or strolling the woodland trails, Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve is located at 3849 Old McHenry Road, in Long Grove. For hours and more information please call 847-438-4743.

Bark less, Wag more!

My grand-puppy, Willa.

My grand-puppy, Willa.

As I was exiting the health club this morning I noticed a bumper sticker that made me smile…a cute dog proclaiming, “Bark less, Wag more!” You know how sometimes the right message hits you at the right moment? This week I’ve heard my share of concerns from several residents on various different issues, and sometimes we all have valid reasons to “bark.” But instead of letting it get me down, I am going to choose to “wag” my tail a little harder. Because there are a lot of really good things to love about Long Grove, and I hear about them from residents that I listen to, who write to me, and who commented on our recent community survey. Here is just a snippet off the top of my head:

What Do We Love About Long Grove?

  • Seeing the sunny daffodils bloom each spring along the right-of-ways and getting free bulbs to plant each fall.
  • Witnessing a huge herd of deer bounding through the snow in the backyard.
  • Christmas lights on the covered bridge.
  • Open spaces that sport native and sometimes rare prairie wildflowers.
  • Knowing that Sunset Foods donates a little bit more to our local school districts each time we use cloth or reusable bags.
  • Having a drink at a tavern that has been in continual operation since the 1800’s.
  • Enjoying beautiful music on Towner Green on Sunday afternoons in the summer.
  • Friendly neighbors who share our “Long Grovian” tendencies.
  • Neighborhood walking trails and nature preserves we can use everyday.
  • Schools that prepare our children for the future with a high quality education.
  • Safe and tidy neighborhoods and volunteers who step up to keep them that way.

I hope your tail is wagging with many, many more reasons to love Long Grove.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 


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!

The Grove Trotters

Grove Trotters (L to R) Carolyn Denaro, Rosemary Thalanany, Marie Roth, and Angie Underwood on a walk in October, 2014.

Grove Trotters (L to R) Carolyn Denaro, Rosemary Thalanany, Marie Roth, and Angie Underwood on a walk in October, 2014.

What is better than a springtime walk in a woodland; gazing at the blooms of the redbuds and virginia bluebells and listening to the songs of the spring peepers? Having a Grove Trotter or two for company, that’s what!  The creative name for our Long Grove walking group is courtesy of resident Renee Clark, who first organized a number of ladies under this name to participate in a breast cancer walk in Chicago over a decade ago.  That group disbanded, but several years later reorganized with the help of the Neighbors and Newcomers Club to form a weekly walking group to explore the many forest preserve trails and neighborhood pathways in and around Long Grove. Our group is informal, fluid, and members join in as they are able. We are fortunate to have some great local places to get out and enjoy nature, but as women, we all know that there is safety in numbers.  Plus, it makes us less likely to skip the exercise if we know a buddy is waiting to also hit the trail. And of course, there is the gossip…I mean, lively conversation to make the time pass more quickly!  My first experience speaking up at a Village Board meeting was due to the Grove Trotters.  Several of our members came to a meeting to ask the Trustees to allocate funds to help pave and extend a walking path on south Schaeffer Road.  And it worked!  The Village supported that path improvement almost 10 years ago, and this summer we are using grant funds to connect the Schaeffer Road trail to the Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve.  I’m looking forward to exploring this new pathway in the fall with my Grove Trotter friends.  This spring we are working on our daily 10,000 steps in Heron Creek Forest Preserve, Stillman Nature Preserve, Reed-Turner Woodland, and several neighborhood paths in Long Grove.  If you would like to join the Grove Trotters for a walk, contact me via email and I will let you know the time and meeting place for our next outing. Get moving, enjoy the woodland wildflowers, and you might meet a new neighbor in the process!

Conserving Our Open Spaces


The snow has finally melted here in Long Grove, and it won’t be long now until our beautiful open spaces look as green and inviting as the one pictured above.  I took this shot in early spring of 2014, on one of the Village Pathway segments that connect through Stonehaven subdivision.  I know many residents share my deep appreciation of the preservation efforts of those who came before us.  We are so very fortunate to be able to enjoy our natural areas in Long Grove because of the many parcels set aside and protected through special conservancy zoning.  To that end, our Village has a Conservancy and Scenic Corridor Commission, which works to help preserve prairies, wetlands, and woodlands as they come under development, and to help residents restore these precious landscapes and keep them healthy and thriving as time moves on.  I attended the recent meeting of the CSC Commission and it was great to see some renewed enthusiasm as we welcomed a new commissioner, Helen Wilson.  A wonderful presentation was given by representatives from Conserve Lake County, a local agency which shares our mission of preservation, restoration, and education.  The group talked about ways in which we could work together to partner resources in helping apply for grants, and in working with homeowners to educate them about the best ways to control invasive species.  In Long Grove, we want to encourage our residents to practice careful stewardship and practical ways to do this were discussed, such as offering seminars and training days, and reaching out directly to Homeowner Associations.  Even though the view from my office windows today is somewhat brown and drab, the Spring season is now officially upon us!  I cannot wait until our pathways dry out and my “Grove Trotter” walking group takes to the trails once again.  And I am thankful that these open spaces remain for us to enjoy, and lovingly maintain for the generations to come.



State of the Village of Long Grove


Happy New Year!  I hope that your 2015 is off to a great start.  I’d like to take a moment of your time to recap some of the significant things that happened on the Village Board in the past 12 months, and give you a peek ahead to what is on the agenda for Long Grove in the coming year.


Every two years, as new Village officials are elected, the new Board spends a workshop day identifying goals for the months ahead.  2014 saw the realization of several of those goals, and significant work was achieved on many goals that are ongoing.  Goals that were achieved include:  the replacement of street signs throughout the Village, update and expansion of the permitted uses in the downtown historic district, lease of the Village soccer fields, and determining the specifics of a road maintenance funding referendum, which was held this past March.  One goal that is ongoing is to “identify sustainable long-term funding sources for needed infrastructure repair and replacement.”  Following the failure of the referendum, this goal became a high priority.  A series of infrastructure workshops was held over the summer and fall months, with the 4th and final workshop planned for January 20th.  Members of the community were invited to work with the Board of Trustees in exploring funding options aided by the guidance and advice of consultants in the fields of strategic planning, engineering, economic development, and finance.  As an outcome of these workshops, the Board expects to have a consensus on direction with regard to funding our current and future infrastructure needs.  The completion of a long-range Capital Improvement Plan that provides a comprehensive view of the Village’s capital needs is another goal that is ongoing, and has been a topic of this workshop series.


Several new issues were brought before the Board this year, two of which resulted in large attendance at public hearings and Village Board meetings.  Video Gambling was approved by the Board on a six month temporary basis, and is currently available at four locations in the historic downtown.  The decision on establishing this on a permanent basis will come before the Board this coming April.  Two new Senior Living & Memory Care developments have been approved in the Village, one near the intersection of Routes 53 and 83, another near the intersection of Rt. 53 and Long Grove Road.  Construction is expected to start on both of these projects in the coming months.


On April 7th, you will be asked to participate in the future direction of our Village as three of the Trustee positions will be up for election.  Six candidates are running in the race, and your vote will be important.  Our Village Clerk position is uncontested.

One of the first goals that the Board will be addressing in 2015 is an update of the Comprehensive Plan.  It has been many years since the previous update, and the time has come to take the pulse of the current residents to make sure that our policies and guiding principles accurately reflect those of the majority.  To assist with this, the Village is hiring a professional survey organization to conduct a Village-wide survey this winter.  If you are called to participate, please let us know your opinion.

In the coming year we expect to make progress on the extension of our Village pathway system, finalizing a connection between the south Schaeffer Road path and the Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve.  A decision on the renovation or replacement of our covered bridge will be made, and steps will be taken to get this work underway.  Our Village water system will be extended from the municipal well at Sunset Plaza into the downtown crossroads.  This will bring higher quality water into the shops and restaurants in our historic business district and be an important factor in attracting new development and encouraging improvements to existing properties.  Speaking of new development, many of the properties in the historic downtown have recently come under new ownership, with several more expected in the next few months.  The Board is looking forward to working with these new owners in 2015, as new shops and restaurants are opened.  We will be assisting with efforts to attract new businesses by forming an Economic Development Commission, and will be taking a more active role in outreach.

Many goals are yet to be achieved.  But your Village Board has the willingness to work hard, and with your support much can be accomplished in the year ahead.