Laona Heights Sugar River Colored Sands Sugar River Two Rivers Ferguson Hartley Memorial Trask Bridge Four Lakes Pecatonica River Pecatonica Wetlands Crooked River Grove Creek Seward Bluffs Klehm Forest Preserve Severson Dells Fuller Memorial Cedar Cliff Indian Hill Hinchliff Memorial Kilbuck Bluffs Trailside Kishwaukee Gorge South Kishwaukee Gorge North Rockford Rotary Kishwaukee River Oak Ridge Blackhawk Springs Deer Run Espenscheid Memorial McKiski County Line Kieselburg Roland Olson Stone Bridge Clayton Andrews Ledges Hononegah J. Norman Jensen Millrace Isle Macktown Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve Headquarters

Board of Commissioners Minutes Jan. 11

Winnebago County Forest Preserve District
District Headquarters
January 11, 2012

Randy Olson – President Tom Kalousek, Executive Director
Judy Barnard Mike Scheurich, Attorney
Mary McNamara Bernsten Mike Durand, Golf
Audrey Johnson Tom Hartley, Land & Development
Gloria Lind Vaughn Stamm, Preserve Operations
Cheryl Maggio Jamie Johannsen, Marketing
Pam Clark Reidenbach, Planning

Craig Peterson
Mike Kearney
Kevin Haas
Lenae Weichel
Jean VanBuren

The meeting was called to order at 5:30 PM. Recording secretary Ronelle Johnson called the roll.

PLEDGE of ALLEGIANCE Mary McNamara Bernsten led the assemblage in the Pledge of Allegiance.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES Minutes for January 4, 2012 were approved.

Focus group process – Pam Clark Reidenbach presented a PowerPoint presentation to the Commissioners that reviewed the focus group process, the groups represented, and the dates of the focus groups.

Results of focus groups – Pam distributed a summary of each focus group and then gave an overview of those summaries.

Environmental Education Providers – Strengths were as follows: collaborative programs, total acreage and quality of preserves, cooperation with NLI, and acquisition of river frontage. The obstacles they felt were: staff for education, loss of Belvidere and Pecatonica, ability to do capital improvements, confusion with the Rockford Park District (this was a consistent comment throughout most of the focus groups), people don’t understand value of the District, and how the District engages an urban audience, and finally the ability to fundraise. The opportunities they saw that the District has are: to expand marketing, fundraise and look at sponsorships, create strong leadership in the new Executive Director and the Board of Commissioners, acquisition of appropriate acreage, developing a volunteer base, creating a foundation, and expanding programming so that the District can become more of a program provider.

Business Professionals – Most of the people that attended this group were marketing professionals. Therefore, a lot of the discussion talked about branding, marketing, etc. The strengths were: District provides an enhanced quality of life, attracts visitors, preservation is a critical part of the mission, providing education, partnerships with Klehm and Severson Dells recognized, there is an independent board that are focused specifically on the Forest Preserve District, and finally, they liked that there was public input. The issues they felt needed to be addressed were: need to improve on marketing, branding, and awareness, would like to see one central communication outlet, and expanded programming. The opportunities this group felt the District could improve were: increased utilization of the facilities, hands-on education as opposed to classroom based, social media and blogging, target marketing with special interest groups and develop partnerships. This group also talked about collaboration with business professionals and identifying goals and approach by talking to this group again to see how they can help. The District’s office is beautiful and it could offer office space for meetings, more opportunities to use the District’s scenic space in the preserves, and finally, a list of recommended connections was given by this group.

Environmental Stewards – The strengths were: highly dedicated, collaborative and competent staff, environmental experts, excellent at managing and maintaining preserves, active in purchasing and acquiring land to protect, good marketing efforts, Severson Dells is a great educational program, diverse recreational opportunities, protecting rivers, extensive trail system, protecting natural lands and areas, and a solid tax base. The suggestions for improvements were: to focus on the mission and stay true to the mission, become an education provider, focus on preserving the land, passive recreation, avoid duplication of services, i.e. golf courses, soccer fields, etc., utilize volunteers, collect species data (know what animals, plants, etc. are really in the area and preserves), removing politics from the board decision-making, educate the Board on environmental issues, clarify land acquisition policy and follow those policies, improve marketing to differentiate from the Rockford Park District, adaptive re-use of the golf courses. The collaboration efforts this group thought of were to create a volunteer base, utilize more opportunities for funding (Pheasants Forever), develop a foundation, create an Advisory Board of environmental experts, the Board and the staff need to work together toward the mission, and finally, would like to see the DNR and others create conservation opportunities areas and cross-border collaborations.

Recreational Organizations/Users – This group was highly equestrian attended. This group is also very willing to be advisors to enhance the equestrian experience. They were very complimentary of the excellent facilities, improvements of equestrian trails, acquisition of land, Severson Dells and programming, and that the Officers are very kind and accommodating. When this group thinks of the Forest Preserve, the differentiation that they described was the natural setting, and the desire for non-motorized areas (the District should not offer any motorized options). The opportunities for improvement were: more equestrian options with less restrictions and better planning, longer and more challenging mountain biking trails, and to use volunteers. The ways they would like to enhance quality of life to the residence are: to see opportunities to use the District for citizens in every quadrant, and link the forest preserves as much as possible, hand off recreational programs not compatible with the mission (i.e. golf, soccer, etc.) or duplicative activities of the forest preserves, focus on linking preserves, re-open Pec Ed Center, be true to the mission, increase educational programs, segregate activities (no mountain bikes and horses together), utilize equestrian riders as volunteers and advisors.

Hunters – This group was an incredibly well-informed group with a mind for conservation and good ethics. This group started by comparing recreational hunting vs. wildlife management. They thought the following: that recreational hunting can be game management, recreational hunting should be the first option rather than sharp shooting, would like to work cooperatively with the District – issue of balance, true conservationists that want to do the right thing, and finally they indicated that most hunters find that sharp shooting is appalling although they recognize its role in addressing rampant CWD. The next question asked of this group was if the District should provide opportunities for hunting. It was an overwhelming yes, in addition to acquiring land to manage for hunting, provide hunters access by closing the preserves, create a pilot site to test to see if there is merit in this option. Also, for any type of hunting accessibility, safety needs to be considered, and they felt that bow hunting could be done without closing the preserves. They also thought looking at the topography and making an informed decision at that point would be in the best interest of the District and hunters. They would like to hunt fowl, bow hunt, and felt this would be a great opportunity for the District to raise revenue. They would like to see a youth hunting program implemented, an earn program should also be implemented (volunteer, clean-up, etc.), use models from other conservation district programs and replicate, and purchase adjacent land for hunters. The hunters also would like to see maintained focus on the mission, and consider partnerships with sportsmen’s groups. Would like to see conservation education expanded, partner with organizations and don’t become a provider, utilize members of the hunting group for hunting and conservation education and volunteers.

Young Professionals – This group consisted of all men. They met at Rockford College and were from Ignite Rockford. They shared the activities they enjoy and had not heard much about the District. They like to hike, they were not aware of the facilities at Severson Dells, they like the inexpensive golf, Klehm, and the walking paths. The reasons they didn’t use the District was they weren’t aware of the facilities (the logo is bad , lack of use of social media and website), lack of positive publicity, confusion with the Rockford Park District, and they were not aware that alcohol was allowed in the preserves but were excited to hear it. When asked what the District could do to get their attention, their suggestions were to have opportunities to rent equipment for use in the preserves (have vendor days and publicize), collaborate with non-profit organizations to create a positive perception of the District, develop a brand and market the District, positive press rather than negative, increase educational opportunities, use social media outlets (Facebook and website are difficult to maneuver), collaborate with Ignite and Next Rockford, and finally they felt the map is difficult to read and use. The comments they had on the mission were to be responsible in land acquisition, use land to generate income for sustainability, conduct an impact study to know who uses what, create a new logo, more readable maps and charts, utilize pictures more to tell the story of the mission. This group was very willing to provide technical assistance on social media.

Former Board Candidates – This was a very devoted group to the District. They thought there is significant confusion with the Rockford Park District, needs to be more definitive on uniqueness on preservation, education is required to clarify difference, utilize volunteers and staff as salespeople. They felt that the priorities for the next five years should be to develop a volunteer program, expand on fundraising, consensus that creating a foundation is important, marketing (continue to promote great things and be positive), and that land acquisition is an important part of the District. They felt the focus should be on preservation of land, complete the strategic plan, develop a volunteer program, education is very important, inventory of natural assets, assess the capabilities and capacities of staff (know what skills and abilities the District has), prioritize land acquisition according to mission and plan, and fundraising should be a focus. The deepest concerns and opportunities this group felt was to have a qualified Executive Director with an environmental background. Additionally, they were concerned about board politics, division, and structure, funding, environmental education, plan for land acquisition, increased awareness and positive perception, and finally utilize this group as volunteers and advisors.

Overall focus group summary – Pam compiled a list of strengths and weaknesses that were expressed in every focus group. Those were: great job maintaining the preserves, the preserves are unique in total land and beauty of the properties, focus on preservation of land, mission is key, expand education, and re-open Pec Ed Center, develop brand and marketing plan, differentiate from the Park District, utilize volunteers, including focus group advisors, focus on passive/non-motorized recreation, deep concern over leadership transition (Executive Director and new independent board), consider golf’s compatibility with the mission, and finally, pursue the value of establishing a foundation. There was deep gratitude from every group to be a part of this process.

Strategic planning – next steps – Pam then advised the Commissioners of the next steps. Those steps are to use the focus group data to create a vision, identify critical issues to be addressed to move the District toward a vision, establish goals based on the critical issues, and then develop a detailed plan including strategies, action steps, timelines, accountability and financial impact.

Commisioner Vacancy Process – Mary McNamara Bernsten read and distributed a proposed resolution for filling the commissioner vacancy. After much discussion, Mary made a motion for Pam Clark Reidenbach to develop an application and a scoring matrix that will be presented to the Commissioners on the 18th for a vote. Motion carried unanimously.

Tom Kalousek distributed a preliminary report on the pine tree removal at Roland Olson, Pecatonica River, and Fuller Memorial Forest Preserves. He also indicated that at the January 18 board meeting there will be discussion as to the tree removal and restoration plan.

Draft agenda for January 18.
IPRA National Conference – January 26-29, Chicago

Meeting adjourned at 7:40 PM.
Next board meeting 5:30 PM, Tuesday, January 18, District Headquarters

Ronelle Johnson
Recording Secretary