Prophetstown Mayor Steve Swanson received a letter last week from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources instructing the city to stop its practice of depositing landscape waste on IDNR Property.
The property located on East Third Street across from Winning Wheels is the site where city residents are allowed to drop off yard waste, which is then collected by the public works department and taken to city property near the sewer plant and burned.
According to Swanson the practice has been in place, “as long as I can remember.” The site also includes a salt bin, built and then abandoned by the state. It has been used by the city and Prophetstown Township for many years.
The letter, sent by George Sisk, Sr. Counsel of Ethics/Compliance Officer, cited IDNR Code which prohibits dumping of any such material on IDNR property as a Class B Misdemeanor. The city was given 30 days to remove the yard waste and an accompanying sign that sets out rules for the site.
Swanson was verbally notified in June that the DNR was looking at stopping the practice by the city so it could use the property to build new storage facilities and offices for the Prophetstown State Recreation Area (park). The current park buildings are often inundated with flood waters and are inaccessible.
The city has begun preliminary plans on constructing a new salt bin at the city’s public works department on Railroad Street. Swanson says he is looking into options for yard waste, but currently has no practical solution. “It works great for everybody now and I don’t understand why they want to change it,” he said.
Ryan Prehn, Chief Of Lands, Office of Land Management with IDNR said in a phone call that while local IDNR officials may have been aware of the practice his office was not. He said that despite the fact the practice has gone on for many years the department has to enforce its code. “If we allow someone to do this, we start down a very slippery slope,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors and we appreciate all the city does to help the park.”
Prehn said it may be possible to work out an agreement with the city for the salt bin and its use, but that dumping simply can’t continue. When asked if the department could sell the property to the city he responded that the process is extremely involved and is something seldom done by his department.
As far as building a new office and storage facility for the park Prehn said it may be something that regional IDNR officials may be thinking about, but he was unaware of it. He did cite several projects going on in other area state facilities including a new roof at the round barn at Johnson Sauk Trail Park and new roofing at White Pines. The department has seen its funding greatly decreased for many years, but may see an increase in the near future.
Swanson says he will continue to have dialogue with the IDNR about the situation as well as looking for practical alternatives for the city’s yard waste.