It has taken nearly 10 years to restore Miller Lake on the campus of Lincoln Trail College to a healthy vital habitat and recreational area, but LTC Foundation Director Rod Harmon says it has been worth the effort.
Covered with algae and duckweed, the small lake was so filled with silt it could no longer sustain life, and was quickly becoming a stagnant pool. Harmon said it was decided something needed to be done.
In 2009, work began on restoring the lake and creating wetlands around the lake. Harmon said the two projects were separate, but complementary.
The lake project was sponsored by the foundation in cooperation with the college and supported by local businessman Steve Neeley of SENCO. Heavy equipment from SENCO was used to dredge a 60-foot ring around the outside edge of the lake, increasing the depth to around 10 or 12 feet. Previously, the lake depth was around eight to nine feet in the center and only two to three feet around the edges.
Low water levels and little or no maintenance around the lake for several years allowed brush and trees to overgrow banks and moss, algae and aquatic plants like duckweed to prosper, making the lake unusable.
The silt and soil dredged from the lake were spread around the edge, making the bank higher on the north and west sides to prevent flooding and allow the lake an additional two feet of depth.
A walking trail, pavilion and benches, birdhouse and habitats were also added. The relief spillway for the lake was raised and used to feed the newly constructed wetlands.
The wetlands project, sponsored by Marathon, is part of the company's effort for conservation in the area. A retaining berm has been built south and east of the lake to help catch and retain runoff water.
The seven-to-eight-acre wetland was planted with more than 1,000 trees and small plant species. The area to the west of the wetlands and lake are also expected to be planted in prairie grass to help prevent erosion from neighboring farm fields.
Harmon said in addition to conservation, both the wetland and lake projects will provide an excellent "living laboratory" for biology, botany and horticulture classes, and will be available to local high schools.
On May 5, volunteers came together to put the finishing touches on the project. Members of the LTC Foundation, horticulture program led by instructor Pam Murphy, Marathon employees, Jeff Sherwood, LTC athletes, faculty and staff were lead by environmental consultants Bonnie Doggett and Casey Blaney, and Marathon's Mike Burdun in completing the pavilion and planting more than 70 trees and shrubs in two gardens.
The group of volunteers started at 8 a.m. and worked all day planting the gardens.
The cost of the two projects is estimated around $100,000. Much of the money came from grants and donation for companies like Marathon and SENCO. Money was also still available from the Ivan Miller fund for whom the lake was named. Other partners in the projects include the United States Department of Agriculture and Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Harmon said it is difficult to acknowledge all of the individuals, companies and organization who have been involved the nine years of the project. What is important is the lake is now useful for recreation, education and good for the environment.