Byline: Dave Orrick Daily Herald Staff Writer
Deep in the heart of Volo Bog, where a 12,000-year-old acidic soup of peat and water wards off non-native plants and tens of acres of trap-door muck keeps exotic animals away, two invaders are finding their way in.
Amid the sound-deadening shroud of soft-needled tamarack and carpet of sphagnum moss, beneath the croaks of sandhill cranes, the din of development can be heard: the roar of diesel-powered front- end loaders, the revving of motorcycles and the accumulated hum of tens of thousands of tires rolling and whooshing along Route 12.
It's only going to get louder.
And at night - once solely the domain of a colony of little brown bats, a lone great-horned owl and amateur astronomers - the glare of sodium lamps from nearby stores washes out the stars and brings light where there once was none.
It's only going to get brighter.
Decades after preservationists won the battle to protect Volo Bog's unique watershed from runoff and habitat destruction, the gem of western Lake County now faces a new challenge: Noise and light pollution.
Barring a controversial extension of Route 53 through the preserve's more than 850 acres, wildlife experts doubt development's mere unwanted noise and light will menace the numerous endangered or threatened plants and animals that call the bog home.
But they note that little research has been done to ensure this, and they worry the place will lose its secluded feel.
Loss of silence
"Just stand here and listen," Stacy Miller-Iwanicki says on a recent balmy afternoon. The expert with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources pauses. From a rise overlooking the pristine expanse, the hum of Route 12 is distant. The acoustic foreground is dominated by shrills of red-winged blackbirds and songs of cardinals and finches. A few early-season frogs - spring peepers - can be heard, too.
"You're going to lose this," she says. "Some day, it might be harder to hear the birds than the machines."
The clamor of machines is not believed to affect the bog's birds, bats or other animals, although bat experts say it's not inconceivable that high-pitched sounds from things like burglar alarms may someday be discovered to interfere with bat sonar.
Miller-Iwanicki and volunteer tour guide Billie Kocal say the presence of sound will be more pronounced - or rather, the lack of silence will be more missed - in the bog's true jewel: its interior pond.
Volo Bog is the only bog in Illinois that displays all stages of the Ice Age's handiwork.
To the untrained eye, it looks like a swamp or marsh. But unlike those shallow depressions, a true bog is a deep hole, known as a drumlin, formed when an immense chunk of ice fell off a retreating glacier, sunk into the wet earth and melted, forming a clear lake.
The vegetation that has gradually encroached is actually floating on a mat of weeds and roots. Entire trees can be seen to sway with the mat's ripple as children bound along the boardwalk. In the interior, trees open to a small pond.
Bogs are relatively sterile places, and ancient cultures from the Celts to Native Americans revered them as mystical and occasionally foreboding places. …