GO river restoration

State contractor crews are winding up this summer’s finishing work along the stretch of the Vermilion River where a low-head dam was removed late in 2018, restoring it to a free-flowing waterway. Just around the bend pictured above, crews are still working on the bank opposite the rip-rap-covered north bank.

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River restoration winds down

State contractor crews are finishing up final grading and placing large stone on the west bank of the Vermilion River (the east bank is already done) in downtown Danville, where the state removed a low-head dam last year — a decision the city of Danville made years ago in the interest of public safety. Crews tore out the concrete structure last year, and work to restore the area to as natural a state as possible has been ongoing this construction season.

According to officials with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, still on the to-do list are placement of grass seed, mulch and fertilizer on all disturbed soil areas, removal of remaining stockpiled or excavated material and removal of construction equipment used in the project.

It’s all anticipated to be wrapped up by the end of this month, according to IDNR.

A bit upstream, on the North Fork branch of the Vermilion River in Ellsworth Park, another, smaller low-head dam was removed earlier this year, also a decision by the city of Danville for public-safety reasons. Work is still ongoing at that site, but the dam and abutments are already gone.

Remaining work involves removing stockpiled and excavated material, final grading and placement of large stone on the east bank of the river (west bank is complete) and placement of grass seed, mulch and fertilizer on all of the disturbed areas. That site is expected to be complete by the end of October.

Steve Lane with the city of Danville parks department said the road that the contractor built to access the dam site on the Vermilion River will be blocked with a gate once the project is done. But in the future, the city anticipates doing additional work to that natural area and even allowing vehicle access down to the river.

“Eventually we’d love for that to be usable space, but for now, the gate will remain closed to vehicular traffic,” he said. “But the access they have created has really been a bonus. It’s a pretty nice road and parking area.”

Lane said this fall, city workers will add another 200 feet to the boardwalk path on the north bank of the Vermilion River using a grant they received from Keep America Beautiful through the local Keep Vermilion County Beautiful. And that organization is holding a river cleanup along the North Fork in Ellsworth Park from 9 to 11 a.m. Sept. 21. Volunteers are encouraged to come help remove debris from along that section of river.

“With water levels lower, we can get right down to the edge, and we can do a better cleanup than we could years prior,” Lane said.

Calling all waterfowl hunters

— Public duck and goose hunting permits: The application periods for the state’s public duck and goose hunting area permits are now open with the third lottery being held Sept. 15–28. Permits remaining after the third lottery will be available on a first-come, first-served basis online starting Oct. 1. Permits are no longer mailed to successful participants but will be emailed, and participants can check the status of their permit application online and print their permit. More information, including online applications, instructions and a list of participating sites is available on the IDNR website. New sites added to the permit system this year include Mermet Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in Massac County and the Black Crown Marsh Unit of Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry County.

— Waterfowl regulation planning open houses: The IDNR invites hunters to mark their calendars for five upcoming public open houses to provide input on waterfowl hunting regulations for the 2021 through 2025 hunting seasons. Hunters will have the opportunity to review information used to make waterfowl season recommendations, talk with IDNR biologists and provide their preferences for waterfowl zone lines and season dates. Locally, an open house will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Illinois Natural History Building on the University of Illinois campus, 1816 S. Oak St., C. Attendees may arrive at any time during the open house. No formal presentations will be given. Other open house dates in other areas of the state can be found on the IDNR website.

Vermilion County nature hike

With fall around the corner, the Middlefork Audubon Society is resuming its nature preserve hikes. Mary Ann Hoeffliger, prairie enthusiast, will be guiding a hiking group through the Doris Westfall Prairie at Forest Glen Preserve near Westville, sharing stories about its history and more. This time of year, there should be later-blooming prairie flowers, grassland birds and butterflies.

Sponsored by the Middlefork Audubon Society and Illinois Native Plant Society (Forest Glen Chapter) the outing will be 10 a.m. to about 12 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Doris L. Westfall Nature Preserve at Forest Glen Preserve. The hiking level for this outing is easy.