Carrie Rock’s interest in Native American culture first drew her to volunteering with the Forest Preserve District more than two decades ago, but in the ensuing years her interests have evolved and so has her volunteer work.
Rock originally served as a volunteer at the District’s Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville, which focuses on the area’s cultural heritage and natural history.
“… I wanted to play a bigger part in educating the community about the history of our area,” she said.
Through her time at Isle a la Cache, though, she found a new passion: birds.
“I kept getting distracted by all of the interesting birds that were using the river as a flyway,” she said. “So that’s when I started to volunteer at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery, where I still am today.”
Through the years, she has become very familiar with the rookery at Lake Renwick in Plainfield, knowing what birds are there and where to look for them. It’s a special place, she explained, and getting to introduce the public to it has its own rewards.
“I enjoy the looks on the faces of people when they first see the island in all its nesting glory,” she said.
And while Lake Renwick is a well-known spot to check out nesting birds in warmer months, Rock said it shouldn’t be overlooked in late fall and during winter, when it’s a great place to look for and observe waterfowl before the lake freezes over.
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Rock said she has met many friends through her volunteer work, as well as individuals who have personal connections to Lake Renwick and the surrounding area. She has met several people who used to work at the site when it was a gravel quarry or who had grandparents who met at the restaurant and dance hall that were once on the site.
Seeing how people react to experiencing the natural beauty that exists within the District’s preserves is what brings her the most joy, she remarked.
“I really enjoy taking groups of people into the woods and watching the wonder on their faces when they see a nesting owl or a soaring eagle or a swimming pelican or a patch of blooming bluebells,” she said.
And time and again these visitors are impressed with the preserves and trails themselves, she said, not just what they see while visiting.
“I always hear comments on how well maintained the forest preserves are and how they can’t wait to come back and bring family and friends,” she commented.
Rock’s volunteer work extends beyond Lake Renwick too. She has done butterfly monitoring at Romeoville Prairie and frog monitoring at Theodore Marsh in Crest Hill, and she has also been a trail monitor at both Lake Renwick and Messenger Woods in Homer Glen.
But the lake and its rookery are what Rock is most proud of.
“It truly is a gem in the middle of suburbia, where people can go to remember what it was like before houses covered the land,” she said. “They have a chance to see deer, turtles, and raccoons sleeping in trees, and to remember that we are all connected to these wild places and it is our job to save them for our children.”
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