Not all happy at clearing of lake area

A bird's eye view of Heritage Lake, courtesy Mike Esslinger, village of Rantoul.

RANTOUL — At least one area resident was not happy with the village’s clearing of trees, brush and natural habitat, including beaver dams, in the area bordering Rantoul’s Heritage Lake. Village officials, however, said the work was necessary.

Rantoul resident David Woon, who said he fishes at Heritage Lake at least twice a week, wondered why it was necessary “to strip the brush and small trees from 99 percent of the shoreline of Heritage Lake. ... It was not done with any consideration that there is a rich ecosystem around the lake.”

Woon called “the scale of destruction appalling.”

He said there is only one tree now standing on the northern shore, “which was the only decently forested area in the entire village accessible to everyone.”

Woon also said a beaver lodge that was active as recently as last winter was razed “along with the trees and brush the animals rely on for survival.”

Rantoul Public Works Director Greg Hazel said much of the growth had been allowed to accumulate in that area for decades and was affecting drainage as far west as Rantoul’s industrial park.

“There was really a combination of some of the dead trees falling into the ditch along with the construction of the beaver dams, which restricted the flow of stormwater through the area,” Hazel said.

He said stormwater from “much of the south and southeast portion of the community drains through that area.”

Hazel said the watershed spans more than 1,000 acres through the area.

“It’s really important to manage that probably better than we have,” he said.

The area affected by stormwater drainage in that area goes as far west as Interstate 57 and south of Walmart.

It “flows east and drains both across the airfield and then south along Chandler Road. With all of the activity with the Air Force over the decades, that section of drainage ditch has been kind of allowed to grow unchecked.”

He said a number of mature trees were left, and the village hopes to have mature grasses grow in that area for erosion control.

Hazel said clearing that area is just one of the sites the village has been focusing on in various areas of town.

He said he is not sure if all that work will be done this year. The village has rented equipment to do the work.

Woon said the village removed some brush two or three years ago, and he knows some will grow back. He said things are not all bad.

“While there’s less cover for fish, turtles, snakes, mammals and birds, access for fishing is obviously better. I caught a 4.4-pound bass there ... and the usual blue gills.”