Local resident Jim Militello has discovered a diverted waterway along the train track north of Crystal Lake.
It used to flow into and through Sterns Woods.
Then, in the early 1990’s the McHenry County Conservation District built its Prairie Path that created a dam.
The MCCD has traditionally tried to restore waterways.
As a result, a seven-acre lake that had been in Stern’s Woods dried up.
Recently, the Northwest Herald ran a story, complete with photograph, trees that had grown where the lake used to be.
The trees had been cut down by the park district.
Water now exists on both sides of the McHenry Metra track used daily and less frequently to deliver Union Pacific freight.
Below is the public comment presentation that Militello made to the Crystal Lake Park Board after being denied a place on the meeting’s agenda:
My name is James G. Militello. I do not live in the Park District, however, I do pay taxes to and support the Park District.
On April 30, 2015, I wrote a letter to you, the Board of Commissioners regarding removal of a dam created by the Prairie Trail and restoration of a lake in Sterne’s Woods.
My letter to you contained two requests.
I requested the Crystal lake Park Dist. to remove the Prairie Trail Dam so as to allow for the natural historic flow of water from the east to the west which would thereby restore a 7 acre body of water to Sterne’s Woods.
I referenced the culverts needed and location of the culverts under the Prairie Trail asphalt path. In addition, I requested this matter be placed on your May 21, 2015 agenda so I could explain my request and answer any questions you may have.
My request to be placed upon your agenda this evening was denied. I am thus, not on your agenda but here before you under Matters from the Public.
Five minutes being the maximum time I am able to speak before this Board clearly does not allow me the necessary time to explain my request nor have an open discussion regarding it. Because of this I am simply going to bring to your attention certain matters that I have observed, that are of public concern.
My concern is that the McHenry County Conservation District under authority granted by the Crystal Lake Park Dist. constructed an asphalt trail known as the Prairie Trail which did not provide necessary culverts under the trail to allow for the natural historic flow of water from east to west.
By not having a culvert under the trail, the trail acts as a dam not allowing water to free flow to the west.
Prior to the Prairie Trail Dam being erected, there was a seven (7) acre lake in Sterne’s Woods that was fed by the natural flow of water from east to west.
After the construction of the Prairie Trail Dam, the lake dried up.
I believe it is a public concern to have the historic Sterne’s’ Woods Lake restored and I request you to do this.
After further consideration of the effect of the Prairie Trial Dam, I observed that there was an impoundment of water to the east of the trail stretching some 500 ft. along the railroad’s embankment.
In addition, I observed that on the east side of the railroad track embankment there was a body of water that could not pass underneath the railroad’s 36” culvert due to the Prairie Trial Dam.
I asked myself what effect does this impoundment of water on both sides of the railroad embankment have to that embankment.
In my research of this matter, I came across an article written by Richard F. Barnitz, P.E. of BNSF Railway entitled “Damage to Railroad Embankment by Seepage and Piping”.
The Article stated,
“Seepage through earth embankments is a natural process. It occurs when water stands against an embankment for any length of time.
“Seepage can result in damage to earth embankments through the development of seepage pipes, slopes stability failures and seepage erosion.
“The cumulative effects of decades long seepage can result in catastrophic failures.
“Preventive measures can be as simple as providing adequate drainage and maintaining existing drainage structures”.
If the railroad embankment, which is constantly inundated with at least 5’ of water along the east and west side were to fail, the safety of the passengers on a train passing over the 500 ft. span would be seriously compromised.
If the Park District were to place culverts under the Prairie Trail this would provide for adequate drainage necessary to eliminate the water impoundment along the railroad embankment.
Your stated mission in part reads,
“To enhance the lives of our residents by providing open spaces that safely promote health, recreation and community in an environmentally responsible manner.”
By allowing the construction of the Prairie Trail Dam by the McHenry County Conservation District, the natural flow of water has been blocked causing the historic Sterne’s Lake to dry up and causing damage to the railroad embankment which could result in catastrophic failure.Allowing this to continue in my opinion would be irresponsible to the environment and the safety of others.
Perhaps complicating the question is the flow of waste water from the Crystal Lake treatment plant north of Route 176.
After treatment, it flows north and, if there were a culvert under the Prairie Path, would flow through the now-empty pond and out of Sterns Woods to the north, eventually ending up in the Fox River.