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IDNR gives nod to Black Hawk repair plan

The waiting is over and repairs to the Black Hawk statue can now begin.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has given its blessing to a plan to repair the damage the 103-year-old statue has suffered from weather and time.

"It's my understanding that the IDNR has approved the plan," said Frank Rausa, Sterling, on Tuesday. "Now all that's left to do is issuing contracts. We're making progress."

Rausa is a member of the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue, the organization spear-heading restoration efforts and fundraising for the project.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) gave its approval to the plan last week.

Approval from both agencies was needed for the work to move forward.

The IDNR's approval was required because the statue, which overlooks the Rock River from a high bluff at Lowden State Park near Oregon, is under that agency's jurisdiction.

The IDNR received a $350,000 grant for the project from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Because the statue has landmark status, the IHPA also had to sign off. Black Hawk has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009.

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1910 as a tribute to all Native Americans, the statue draws thousands of visitors each year. It was unveiled in 1911.

Testing and evaluations done last fall and this spring by Thornton Tomasetti, Chicago, an architectural firm that provides engineering design, investigation, and analysis services to clients worldwide, showed that three areas of the statue greatly need repairs.

Chunks of the concrete have fallen from the folded arms of the statue, and more areas are loose and ready to fall.

Preparation work began in mid-July when a crew removed the bushes and limestone blocks from around the base of the statue and put up a fence around it.

Scaffolding was delivered to the site late last week.

Rausa said a special stairs are still needed for the scaffolding.

Once that is secured and the scaffolding is in place, the repair team will begin doing "mock-ups" or testing various mixtures of concrete and other materials to see which one will work the best to restore the damaged areas.

A rededication ceremony will be held once the work is done, probably next July.

So far, approximately $725,000 has been raised toward the repairs. 

Rausa said an additional $75,000 to $100,000 will likely be needed to complete the project.

To donate, checks can be made out to the Illinois Conservation Foundation and marked for the Black Hawk Statue.

Donations can be mailed to Illinois Conservation Foundation, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield IL 62702.

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