MAHOMET – Rick Kumler splits his days between fishing in a clear blue lake and getting physical therapy for injuries from a motorcycle accident.
He prefers the fishing at River Bend Forest Preserve, which gets its formal opening Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. River Bend is due south of Mahomet, just off Illinois 47.
For the last three or four weeks, the Mahomet man has been out on Sunset Lake, the bigger of two lakes in the new forest preserve.
"The water is crystal clear. I love it," he said Thursday, with the sky matching the lake.
The lakes are clear because they're deep, 40 to 50 feet deep, from decades of gravel mining.
They're spring-fed, free of mud from the nearby Sangamon River, which runs along the north boundary of the forest preserve, or of other creeks.
Don Olson, who's director of natural resources for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, said the water's going to stay that way.
While Shadow Lake, the smaller and less developed of the two, is designed to accommodate floodwaters from the Sangamon, with berms purposely low in places, Sunset Lake has state-of-the-art drainage.
A French drain, which uses a ditch filled with gravel, rock or perforated pipe, redirects the parking lot's runoff to bioswails, where plants can absorb toxins that would otherwise end up in Sunset Lake.
Forest Preserve Director Gerald Pagac, who has only been on the job a few months, said he's impressed by the work his staff did on a pavilion, the grading and several trails, including one that's 1.8 miles long.
They were still on the job Thursday, putting final touches in.
"Beautiful," Pagac said, looking out at the lake.
Pagac and Olson chatted with fisherman Kumler about stocking the lake with fish, whose population has been growing for years.
Pagac noted that river fish came over from the Sangamon as eggs on the feet of shorebirds.
Olson is concerned about exotic or intrusive species such as Asian carp or zebra mussel getting into his lake. The forest preserve is working hard to plant native species of plants has well.
There are five native Illinois roses growing in the forest preserve, giving off their perfume, including a swamp rose, he said. They will continue to bloom into next month.
Olson said the forest preserve has already become a resource for the University of Illinois and Parkland College.
A UI grad student, Caitlin Bell, said she was interested in studying riverbed sediment for its beneficial properties.
The environmental engineer said mud from River Bend might prove useful in studying bioremediation, a natural process of removing contaminants.