Preserve People: a photographic series

People connect to the forest preserves in diverse and powerful ways. It may be science, history, aesthetics, spirituality, learning, healing, recreation or simply love of nature. This series of photos created for Nature’s Notebook captures the people and the nature of their connections.

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When Shirley Russell visited the newly acquired Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve―

as she stepped out of the car a familiar sound drew her eyes to the sky. She pointed to a redtail hawk soaring overhead. Shirley’s lifelong affinity for nature is rooted in her historic connection to this piece of land.

When Shirley was a child in the 1930’s, her family lived on the property that became our forty-third forest preserve in 2017. Shirley’s father was a farmer’s hired hand and the family of five lived in a rustic dwelling called a grout house because it was constructed of field stones and grout.

When visiting Cedar Cliff, Shirley reminisced about how she and her brothers played with rocks, sand, and fossils. They made little bark boats and put messages in them and sent them down the creek, and used a limestone hollow as a playhouse. Shirley explains, “We were poor, but we children didn’t know it because we were surrounded by the abundance of nature.”

Shirley passed her love of nature on to her children who now have created their own legacies with the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County. Her daughter Judy and her husband, Ed, were married at Severson Dells Forest Preserve in 1984, and Judy contributes her creative talents and time as a volunteer for numerous FPWC programs and events.