Hunters earn right to use Allerton; park gets much-needed help

MONTICELLO – Allerton Park has a new crew of volunteers.

They've yanked out weeds and invasive plants from the gardens, filled bins with cucumbers and tomatoes and removed trees that fell down during storms and blocked hiking trails.

Middlefork bridge work will alter Kickapoo activities

DANVILLE – Hikers and trail runners should be warned that the Out and Back Trail at Kickapoo State Park won't be quite as far "out" or "back" anymore.

Next week, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources crew plans to remove the Johnson Hill Bridge spanning the Middlefork River. The footbridge, which once was a road bridge over the Middlefork River, is part of the 7.6-mile Out and Back Trail at the state park. The trail begins at the main road through the park, winds through the woods and eventually heads west over the Middlefork River before circling around and leading back out the same way.

Forest tribute keeps growing at River Bend

MAHOMET – New life from seed will be Champaign County's tribute to the 2,996 dead of Sept. 11, 2001.

The fifth anniversary will be marked here at 2 p.m. Sept. 11 at the "9-11 Memorial Woodland" at River Bend, the new forest preserve just south of Mahomet.

District plans to boost biodiesel use in bus fleet

URBANA – Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District buses now run on a gasoline blend that includes 5 percent soy-based biodiesel.

But officials there hope to increase the blend soon to 20 percent.

Invasive species cause headaches for area parks

HOMER LAKE – Autumn olive is a good thing to plant if you want to fix nutrients in your soil. But, as often is the case with good things, you can quickly get too much of autumn olive.

Once you've had autumn olive pointed out to you at the Salt Fork River Forest Preserve near Homer, you'll see it everywhere. Before Homer Lake was a park, it was a state tree nursery, and state officials encouraged planting it between rows to fix nitrogen in the soil.

Cities taking tougher stance on utility issues

CHAMPAIGN – Firefighter Todd Anderson recalls trying to open a fire hydrant on North Market Street on Oct. 28, 2005, as flames soared from the nearby Stark Excavating Inc. maintenance building.

Efforts to operate a hydrant closer to the building, in the 2000 block of North Market, had failed. Anderson frantically worked on a second hydrant about 400 feet away, trying to get the cap off.

Mayor calls in feds to round up turkeys

URBANA – The city is making a federal case out of its rampaging wild turkeys.

It's the mayor who took out the contract.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said Tuesday that after city and county officers couldn't nab the turkeys that some have claimed terrorize the southern edge of the city, it will be an Agriculture Department biologist who brings the birds to ground.

Residents wonder why some driveways aren't getting fixed during construction

CHAMPAIGN – For residents of central Champaign, summer 2006 likely will be remembered for the multiple road construction projects under way.

For the most part, residents of Green, John and Healey streets – all of which are under construction east of Prospect Avenue – are pleased to see their streets being improved. They say they're willing to put up with construction inconveniences like noise, dust and parking on side streets.

Seismic studies next on agenda for FutureGen sites

TUSCOLA – Representatives from Tuscola and Mattoon, back from a two-day meeting in Pittsburgh, say the sessions were helpful in explaining what the cities need to do to win the proposed FutureGen plant.

They reviewed the technical aspects of the environment work the cities have to do, said Brian Moody, director of Tuscola's economic development efforts. And they asked a lot of questions.

Rain blamed for drop in fair attendance

URBANA – Rain, even more than the recent heat wave, is being blamed for a drop in attendance at this year's Champaign County Fair.

Final figures have not been determined, but total attendance for the 154th fair was between 48,000 and 49,000, according to Champaign County Fair Manager Karen Duffin.