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Waukegan students tackle outdoors project

Here's holiday themed picture for outdoors an old high school friend Dave McClure retired U.S. Army retired military policeman from

Here's a holiday themed picture for the outdoors an old high school friend, Dave McClure, a retired U.S. Army retired military policeman from Sandusky, Ohio, just sent me. Ho,ho,ho and Merry Christmas. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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We are going to assume here that Santa is fishing for a smile from onlookers. This picture was sent in by Dave McClure, an old high-school friend who is a U.S. Army retired military policemen. He now lives in Sandusky, Ohio. Ho, ho, ho, and Merry Christmas to all! | SPECIAL TO SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Updated: January 23, 2013 6:06AM

I’m looking at the positive things as we get close to the end of 2012. Here are some things I didn’t get a chance to tell you about for one reason or another.

Water quality and Waukegan are not always used in the same sentence, but high school students from Lake County’s biggest city have incorporated the outdoors in their classroom experience.

Several classrooms of Waukegan High School students have been out testing the waters in the ravines and rivers in Waukegan parks with the aim of assessing the health of the aquatic ecosystem in the city. They studied turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH levels, temperature and macro-invertibrates in the water at Yeoman Park, Bevier Park and Powell Park and reported the results to the Waukegan Park District.

Beforehand, the students were supposed to hypothesize what they might find out about all these waterways, which eventually go into Lake Michigan. What they found was that despite some pollutants, the water was cleaner than they expected and there was a lot more life than they expected.

“The students were really engaged and they were excited. Now, they are interested in doing more field trips like this,” said Dana Nixon, a science instructor who worked on the project along with teachers Kate Krischke and Tiffany Liu.

I hope the Bulldogs keep pushing the envelope on outdoor and environmental issues next year and into the future.

■ Speaking of water, the Lake-To-Prairie Chapter of the Wild Ones will be holding a meeting at the Fremont Public Library, 1170 North Midlothian Road, Mundelein, on Jan. 8, featuring a water expert who will discuss whether or not we need to worry about running out of water.

Juli Crane, principal wetland specialist with the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, will provide an overview of current and future water availability in Lake County and the country, identify which local, state, and federal entities are charged with water protection, quality and regulation, discuss factors that are depleting our water supply, and suggest easy, practical, cost-effective ways to go about solving the problem with various sustainable practices.

The Wild Ones was a group I always wanted to join because they used to go to properties slated for development and identify native plants. Then, members would come and dig them up and bring them home to plant in their local prairies.

They have been scheduling a lot of interesting meetings as well, on native plants and how the Native Americans used them for food and medicine, bees, and field trips like their latest one to Illinois Beach State Park where they saw lots of plants, bugs and birds.

Check them out at

Conserve Lake County is another well-established group that has been around awhile, although its name is new and you may remember it as the Liberty Prairie Conservancy.

They recently sent a nice recap of the year. They are concerned with conserving land and reintroducing native landscaping at homes, schools and businesses.

In 2009, Conserve Lake County led a county-wide coalition of 17 organizations in an effort to determine a target goal for the amount of open space to ultimately protect in Lake County. The group determined that if 20 percent of the county is preserved as open space, its residents will be well-positioned for physical, mental, ecological and economic health well into the future.

Some of the progress cited in their progress report included: The Lake County Forest Preserve District purchased 687 acres that includes the new 227-acre Lake Marie Forest Preserve near Antioch, a 318-acre addition to Pine Dunes Forest Preserve near Wadsworth, and a 142-acre addition to Grant Woods Forest Preserve near Fox Lake. The district now protects a total of 30,012 acres.

Besides that, several entities near Barrington teamed up to preserve an oak forest at the 15-acre Barkley Woods that saw Cuba Township, the Village of Tower Lakes, Barrington Area Conservation Trust, Citizens for Conservation and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission all work together.

Another significant parcel that received protection was the 101-acre Dokum Mskoda Nature Preserve near Waukegan. The site is owned by the Fields of Cambridge Condominium Owners Association and Conserve Lake County, with state protection provided by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

“This year’s efforts by the Lake County Forest Preserve District and other conservation organizations will help protect the quality of life in this county in many ways for years to come,” said Steve Barg, executive director of Conserve Lake County, “Benefits will accrue to everything from property values and business climate to environmental health and people’s well-being. Many of this year’s projects protect important waterways, a growing area of concern.”

Keep your eye on the Outdoors and reap the rewards.

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