BYRON – Enjoying and protecting the natural beauty of Ogle County clearly means something to Trevor Hogan.
Hogan, a Byron native, has served on the Byron Forest Preserve District board and is now president of the new Ogle Natural Areas Alliance board.
“Nature, the outdoors, has done a lot for me,” Hogan said. “The world is more indoors, more virtual these days. The more we spread the word that getting outside is good for you and healthy for you, we are definitely advocates for that.”
Hogan and the rest of his board are also ready to spread the word about the new organization. They are hosting a deck party at the Jarrett Prairie Center in Byron on Friday, Aug. 12 from 6-9 p.m. Everyone is invited to learn about how they can support natural areas in the county. There will be live music, food and a cash bar.
The Ogle Natural Areas Alliance is a public non-profit that will work with the Byron Forest Preserve District to help with acquiring lands for public use through charitable donations and finding grant opportunities. Hogan said that it is easier for people making a donation to go through the non-profit rather than a government agency.
Although the board came about after the Byron Forest Preserve District board put the need for such a foundation in its strategic plan, Hogan said they are open to helping other similar local agencies.
“What we are saying as a board, we are willing to work with any of these public land holding agencies that need assistance, or if there is opportunity there, we are here to help,” he said.
That includes the Oregon Park District, Byron Park District, Rochelle Park District and others.
“Our board can give anybody the benefits of what we receive,” Hogan said.
For now, the board needs to raise some funding to get started. It held its first meeting last year, but it wasn’t until all the paperwork cleared that it officially came together this March.
Hogan, a Rockford firefighter, said he served on the Byron Forest Preserve District board for nine years. The Ogle Natural Areas Alliance board has five members, who Hogan describe as conservationists.
He said the goal is to protect the land, and hopefully help it become a space for the public to enjoy.
“There are plenty of spaces still left in the Byron area, and tons of spaces in Ogle County that are great parcels of land,” Hogan said.
Some of that land, of course, is privately held. He said the Alliance board would be looking to work with people who want to sell or donate that land so it can be protected and enjoyed in the future.
“There are those opportunities out there, and people do want to protect some of their private land that they have put their life into,” he said.
For now, Hogan said the goal is to get their name out in the public and raise money. They will do that through private donations as well as grant funds.
Over the next few years, the plan is to build relationships with private donors who could make large donations.
Even further down the road? Hogan said that could see the county have its own forest district. But that would take time and a public vote, so that is not in the immediate plans.
The public can learn more about this new organization and the upcoming event at www.oglenaturalareasalliance.org.