Barrington Hills prairie safe from development
Riding Club of Barrington Hills members Eve Perry (left), Gretchen Hess (center) stand atop the gravel hill prairie with landowner Renata Heiberg. A conservation easement permanently protects the riding trails. | Photo courtesy of Patty Dowd Schmitz
Updated: November 5, 2012 10:48AM
BARRINGTON HILLS — The Barrington Area Conservation Trust announced last month the preservation of a rare native gravel hill prairie in Barrington Hills that is known for its equestrian trails.
A conservation easement, which is a deed restriction used to protect private property from future development, was used to secure the prairie’s preservation.
“It was really exciting for us,” said Karen Yancy, executive director of the Barrington Area Conservation Trust. “It took almost a year to complete this, so we’re thrilled to finally have it done.”
The site consists of four acres with an oak forest. Yancy said the forest has trees that are more than 100 years old as well as a number of rare plants.
“It’s really what defines our community,” Yancy said. “There’s one percent of the original Illinois prairie remaining in the state, and this is part of that. It’s also a very big gift to the equestrian community.”
The property, which is near Ridge Road, is owned by Marius Bialas and Renata Heiberg. Bialas and Heiberg worked with members of the Riding Club of Barrington Hills, who urged the couple to talk to the Trust about the possibility of an easement on the land. Although the land is private property, the easement allows for Riding Club members to continue using the riding trails on the property. Yancy said the Trust plans on offering hikes through the area to its members.
Yancy explained that an easement is a permanent deed restriction that stays in place even if the ownership of the property changes.
“So when you sell it, the next person has to abide by the rules,” she said.
Some of the rare plants on the Barrington Hills property include purple prairie clover, green milkweed and a variety of blue stem grasses. Yancy said most gravel hill prairies are found along the Mississippi region of Illinois and it’s rare to find such a prairie in this area.
“This conservation easement is a wonderful gift to the community and will ensure that both the horse trails and the rare native plants are protected through ongoing stewardship efforts,” Yancy said.
Conservation easements, Yancy explained, have been used widely on the east and west coasts and are becoming increasingly popular in Illinois. The Trust has completed more than 20 easements in the Barrington area since it was formed 12 years ago.