Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM
SAVING ROCKY GLEN: HOW PUBLIC EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY AWARENESS HELPED PRESERVE A GEOHERITAGE SITE
Rocky Glen is a 70-acre property located near Peoria, Illinois, containing a box canyon with walls of Pennsylvanian-aged sandstones and shales, two seasonal waterfalls, rare vegetation growth, and an abandoned coal mine shaft. The 65-foot canyon walls are the largest outcropping of bedrock in the region. Etched into the sandstone bedrock are the names of coal miners who secretly met at Rocky Glen to organize the first local labor unions in the early 1900s. Recognizing the aesthetic, historical, and scientific significance of this “geohertitage” site, a group of local citizens formed the Friends of Rocky Glen (FORG) to help raise community awareness and to work to preserve the land as a public park. Permission was granted by the landowner for FORG to conduct monthly educational hikes for the general public, and a web site was created to disseminate information. The geoeducation component was divided into three parts: 1) the rock and fossil evidence for ancient coal swamps; 2) the role of glacial deposition and melt water flooding in the formation of the canyon; and, 3) the significance of coal mining in the cultural and economic history of the region. During the educational hikes, special emphasis was placed on how the geologic story of Rocky Glen connected with the participants’ life experiences (e.g. ancestors who were coal miners, local underground mine subsidence problems, regional groundwater issues, similar rocks and fossils found on their property, etc.). The beautiful natural setting also offered an opportunity for concepts such as the geologic time scale and plate tectonics to be introduced to the public in a non-intimidating, relevant manner. As a result of this educational awareness campaign and the tireless efforts of FORG working with the land owner and the local government, the City of Peoria purchased the property in 2012. Plans are currently underway to create a park with an interpretive trail.