Byron Forest Preserve purchases Barrick Homestead Farm - – Rockford’s News Leader

Byron Forest Preserve purchases Barrick Homestead Farm

Mr. William Barrick Mr. William Barrick
Left to Right - Jerry Paulson, Todd Tucker, Kim Smeja, Jill Smeja Gnesda, Phil Zaffer. Left to Right - Jerry Paulson, Todd Tucker, Kim Smeja, Jill Smeja Gnesda, Phil Zaffer.


The Smeja Family Foundation announced November 1st, 2010, the sale of the Barrick Homestead Farm, located on the northeast corner of Tower and Oak Grove Roads north of Byron, to the Byron Forest Preserve District. "It was the dream and hope of William Barrick when he sold the family farm to Bill and Lou Smeja that it be preserved as a memorial to his family, one of the original settlers in Byron Township," said Jill Smeja Gnesda, President of the Foundation.

The 228-acre Barrick farm has a branch of Mill Creek running through it which served as a gathering place for the Barrick family for many years, according to Gnesda. "The historical documents, pictures and stories from the Barrick family in our possession have been archived at the Byron Historical Museum," Gnesda said.

The descendents of both the Smeja and Barrick families have worked as a team to preserve this great family story. "There are still descendents of the family scattered about and we are making every attempt to gather their stories to preserve along with the land." Gnesda asked that any additional pictures or historical information about the Barrick homestead be directed to the Byron Historical Museum.

The Smeja Family Foundation acquired the Barrick farm from the Smeja family and decided to entrust the land to the Byron Forest Preserve District because the agency is able to protect and restore the woods and wetlands on the property, and make the land available to the public to enjoy its natural beauty. "Over time, the City of Byron will continue to grow north. The Forest Preserve will serve as a green area that will give a peaceful respite for generations to come," said Gnesda.

The mission of the Byron Forest Preserve District is Preservation, Education, and Recreation. Purchasing land and preserving it is line with this mission. Executive Director Todd Tucker of the Byron Forest Preserve stated, "Along with maintaining the historical value of this property, our plan is to restore the property back to its original condition. Protecting the open space and stream management are also a priority. Outdoor education will also take place on this property as it will be used to teach children and adults about the prairie, woodlands, wetlands, streams, and their inhabitants."

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