Paxton man honored as master farmer by ag magazine

PAXTON – A Paxton man has been named a 2009 Master Farmer by Prairie Farmer magazine.

Rick Nelson of Paxton is one of five Illinois farmers selected as master farmers, said Josh Flint, an editor at the magazine.

One-act play competition welcomes additional entries

NORMAL – The Heartland Theatre Company has expanded its original one-act play competition to welcome entries from beyond Illinois to seven Midwest states.

Now called New Plays from the Heartland, the third annual competition provides Midwestern playwrights a chance to share their original plays with central Illinois residents. The contest includes a residency by a nationally known playwright and staged readings of the three winning plays on May 15 and 16. The three winning playwrights also will receive a $150 honorarium.

Urbana's Carle Park getting extensive tree maintenance

URBANA – In the year of its 100th anniversary, Carle Park's towering forest of 274 trees is getting some much-needed attention.

After a careful inventory and assessment of Carle Park's trees, Urbana Park District officials determined this year that 24 of the trees are either dead or diseased and will need to come down. Another 56 trees need to be pruned to ensure their continued health.

Author: Focus on waste should shift back to manufacturing

CHAMPAIGN – So you recycle your cans, plastic and paper waste. You take your reusable cloth bags to the grocery store, instead of getting plastic bags for your groceries.

It's a good start.

"It matters what we do. It matters that we take our bags to the grocery store. But that's not enough," said Heather Rogers, an author and filmmaker who writes about environmental issues and mass consumption.

Recycling deals with waste after it's been made, she said, but she is calling for deeper changes that start with looking at what is manufactured.

Sleep tight; don't let the (rising numbers of) bed bugs bite

CHAMPAIGN – They sneak into your house and hide until bedtime.

And when you fall asleep, they crawl out for the only dinner they ever want – your blood.

"And they don't wake you up," warns local Terminix owner Bill Fulton, who's been seeing bed-bug cases multiply over the last couple of years.

Public health experts are seeing the increase, too.

Environmental writer will be guest-in-residence

URBANA – Environmental writer, journalist and filmmaker Heather Rogers will be a Unit One/Allen Hall guest-in-residence from Sunday through Thursday. She will speak each night.

All of the programs are open to the public and take place in the South Rec Room of Allen Hall, 1005 W. Gregory St., U.

Chanute's half million-dollar wastewater system going to waste

RANTOUL – The half million dollars in taxpayer money spent to collect wastewater from landfills on the former Chanute Air Force Base may itself go to waste. The systems built with the money were never turned on, and now may never be used.

Air Force contractors spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars building leachate collection systems between 2001 and 2004 to collect contaminated water that filters through three former Chanute landfills.

Kayaker plans trip to raise money for Parkinson's research

CHAMPAIGN – Joe Forrester has an interesting and exhausting summer planned.

He's going to kayak the Missouri and Mississippi rivers – a distance of 3,900 miles – in an effort to raise $20,000 for the National Parkinson's Foundation.

Forrester, 24, is about to begin his fourth year of medical school at the University of Virginia. He's undertaking the trip this June as a tribute to his grandfather, Joseph Forrester, who is afflicted with Parkinson's disease.

Ornamental grasses seminar set at Vermilion UI Extension

DANVILLE – The Vermilion County unit of the University of Illinois Extension Service will host "Catch the Wave of Ornamental Grasses" from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Extension office, 12190 US 150, west of Danville.

The seminar will discuss the benefits of planting ornamental grasses in any landscape to add texture, color, movement and seasonal interest to gardens.

Organization seeks volunteers to help clean up Kickapoo

DANVILLE – Thousands of people throughout East Central Illinois demonstrated their support for Kickapoo State Park last year when it was in danger of being closed by the state.

Now, Keep Vermilion County Beautiful volunteers are calling on those same people to show their support again in April by volunteering one Saturday morning to pick up trash, clear trails and more at the second annual Kickapoo Cleanup. It will be part of Keep America Beautiful's Great American Cleanup, which takes place each year from March through May.