A two-decade quest to preserve one of the most scenic natural areas in the tristate region came to a successful close on December 21 when the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (JDCF) purchased a 150-acre addition to the Horseshoe Mound Preserve from the Richardson Family, quadrupling the size of the preserve. This acquisition marks the capstone of a community-driven effort to preserve this iconic landmark in the Galena area and successfully concludes a long-running chapter in JDCF’s history.
In 1996, just three years after JDCF was founded, a group of area citizens approached the Foundation about protecting what is now Galena Gateway Park, which at that time was under the threat of commercial development. Several citizens joined JDCF and created what was interestingly named the Horseshoe Mound Scenic Preservation Committee, a nod to the prominence of this unique geologic feature. But it was in 1998 that momentum around land preservation along the “Gateway to Galena” really took off, following the actions of people such as the late Patricia Richardson, who protected the northern part of her family’s farm on Horseshoe Mound from development by placing a conservation easement on the land.
That move led to significant efforts to preserve the rest of the scenic view in the area, which included a donation of 25 acres of land by former Galena Mayor Robert Buehler to JDCF in 1998. In 2008, JDCF purchased the original 40-acre Horseshoe Mound Preserve and purchased the now 180-acre Galena Gateway Park in 2010 and 2016. In total 390 acres have been preserved in a complex of land running from the top of Horseshoe Mound to the banks of the Galena River over the past twenty-two years.
“It is apropos that the preservation of this Galena Gateway complex all started with Pat Richardson and is now coming to completion with her sons Larry and Tom Richardson’s actions 20 years later – honoring their mother’s legacy. They deserve a lot of recognition for choosing to put their land in conservation, forever preserving this special landmark of statewide significance,” said Steve Barg, Executive Director of JDCF. “I hope local residents reach out to the Richardsons and say thanks.”
Volunteers from JDCF’s Galena Area Land Enthusiasts (GALE) have already started oak woodland restoration work on the Richardson addition to Horseshoe Mound preserve and will be joined by others from the Northwest Illinois Prairie Enthusiasts and AmeriCorps as work progresses on the very visible west-facing slopes of the mound along Highway 20. Other parts of the site will continue to be farmed as they have been for decades. Larry and Jackie Richardson will continue to own and live in their home on the property built in 1995.
There will be no public access to the site from Highway 20. However, the public will be able to enjoy the addition by entering through the original 40-acre Horseshoe Mound Preserve at 1679 N. Blackjack Road about 1.5 miles south of Highway 20. A new pedestrian trail will open this spring, showcasing the amazing views and unique rock outcroppings that, in part, make this property so special. “I am sure that area residents and visitors alike will embrace the addition to Horseshoe Mound as much as they have the original preserve,” added Barg.
There are many people who have contributed along the way, but today JDCF thanks the Richardson Family for their vision and the Grand Victoria Foundation and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation which provided funding for the acquisition. No tax dollars have been used for this acquisition or the restoration and maintenance of Horseshoe Mound Preserve.