Prairie preservationist stands his ground on final plant relocation

Prairie preservationist stands his ground on final plant relocation

CHAMPAIGN — Prairie preservationist David Monk stood in front of the last section of his North Chestnut Street "pocket prairie," saying Thursday he would literally stand in the way of heavy equipment being used to relocate the plants.

"I think people need to stand in front of the bulldozers sometimes," he said.

About two-thirds of the plot has already been moved to the Boneyard Creek's Second Street Detention Basin, Monk said. But for the last stretch, he said he'd been given only short notice by the land's owner, Dr. William Youngerman, and wanted to supervise the move himself. He wouldn't let the contractors proceed; they took away their equipment.

About 1 p.m., Monk was in front of the pocket, in loud conversation with Champaign police Officer David Monahan, who told the advocate that he could not stand in front of heavy equipment.

"I understand it's your life, but I will not allow you to injure yourself," Monahan said, warning "I will take you into custody for your own safety. There is a time and a place for this."

Ultimately, contractor East Central Illinois Service Group said it would delay moving the plants until later.

Aaron Haunhorst, chief operations officer for the contractor, said he was concerned about the idealistic preservationist's safety around a backhoe. But he said the company is donating its services and could not put off the move indefinitely.

"We're trying to help. But tomorrow will be the fourth go at it, including the first move," Haunhorst said. The company often works with Youngerman, he indicated.

Monk, a major force in the Kickapoo Rail Trail, said the pocket prairie just north of University Avenue had been there at least 20 years.

"These plants are valuable, not something that should be replaced with daisies," Monk said.

The site is being vacated to make way for a wheelchair access ramp for an upcoming beer garden behind Pour Bros. Craft Taproom, which just opened in the building at 40 E. University Ave.

"We've tried to work with him, and there's been some resistance," Champaign spokesman Kris Koester said.

Youngerman couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.