Kevin McGowan has been active in archaeology for over 30 years and has made significant contributions to Illinois archaeology and the Illinois Archaeological Survey. I’ve known Kevin for nearly 30 years as both a colleague, mentor and employer. I first met Kevin when I began work on my doctorate at the University of Illinois in the late 1980s. Kevin had just started the Public Service Archaeology Program in the Anthropology Department, later to become the Public Service Archaeology and Architecture Program, to conduct cultural resource management projects. Along with many other students, I was hired to participate in various archaeological investigations throughout the state and the Midwest while I worked on my dissertation. Having successfully completed his own Ph.D., Kevin was always very flexible, allowing us to assist with CRM projects when possible, and “disappear” for weeks or months to continue work on our degrees. While I learned much about archaeology in the classroom, Kevin offered the opportunity to get practical field experience on a wide range of sites in varied environmental settings. He also encouraged and assisted staff to independently incorporate the results of investigations into papers and conference presentations.
I believe the strongest argument for presenting this award to Kevin is his years of dedicated service to the IAS. Kevin has selflessly served as Secretary since 1994, dutifully attending and organizing meetings for the organization. While board members come and go over the years, Kevin has elected to remain on the board, volunteering his services and sharing his years of experience with his characteristic calm and reserved demeanor. In this way, he has demonstrated his deep commitment to maintain and continue to develop the organization’s professional goals and objectives. The IAS has clearly benefited from the extensive knowledge and experience he has acquired over the years. Another justification for presenting Kevin with this particular award was his association with Charles Bareis, assisting him with the difficult task of maintaining the state site files. Bareis, who had served as IAS Secretary-Treasurer beginning in 1963, was highly dedicated to the site files, ensuring archaeologists had access to a vital database with which to protect and preserve archaeological sites. Kevin, in his long-term role as Secretary of the IAS, has continued the dedicated service to Illinois archaeology demonstrated by Charles Bareis. So again, it is an honor to present Kevin McGowan with this year’s Charles J. Bareis Distinguished Service Award.
This Public Service award is presented to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Cook County Board of Commissioners, President Toni Preckwinkle, District Superintendent Arnold Randall, and Department of Resource Management Director John McCabe and Deputy Director Chip O’Leary. And Chip is here with us this morning.
To start, I would like to give a bit of background. Founded in 1914, the District was the first county-wide unit of government in Illinois dedicated to land conservation, and one of the first such units in the nation created within an urban environment. Today, it is the largest forest preserve district in the United States with an estimated 40 million visits each year. Cook County, home to over 5 million residents and the City of Chicago, is the second most populated county in the nation, second only to Los Angeles. In this otherwise urban setting, the District owns and manages 70,000 acres, or 11% of Cook County.
District lands also contain approximately 620 of the 1,200 recorded sites in Cook County. Most of these sites were recorded by avocational archaeologists in the late 19th through late 20th centuries. But, prior to 2014, only a small percentage of these sites had been revisited or evaluated in any way, and less than 20% of District lands had undergone any type of systematic professional survey.
In 2014, with development of its “Next Century Plan”, the District partnered with University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute – which houses the State Scientific Surveys – to develop a Natural and Cultural Resource Master Plan. The Illinois State Archaeological Survey worked with District staff to inventory and evaluate resources, develop long term management recommendations, and enhance public programming. Implementation of the Plan began in 2015.
Throughout the Master Plan’s first 5 years, the District committed significant funding and staffing resources to both immediate and long term management goals. Key department directors and supervisory staff throughout this large agency have integrated archaeological resource management into their day to day operations. These include the departments of natural resource management, public education, volunteer and youth training programs, law enforcement, recreation and facilities planning and development, and real estate and new land acquisitions. The District’s strong commitment continues now, with the renewal of their partnership with the University of Illinois, for a second 5 year period that began in 2019.
The District has accomplished an impressive number of things over these last 7 years - including professional field survey of over 4,200 acres, and identification of 60 new sites. Management priorities and protocols have been developed for all 620 currently known sites. Additionally, 29 sites have been placed under Illinois Nature Preserve protection status. Some of these sites include Palos, Huber, and the entire Hoxie site complex.
The District has highlighted archaeology and the importance of site preservation in over 50 of its public events. They have incorporated archaeological resource training into their GreenCorps Chicago and Youth Outdoor Ambassador internship programs, funding over 1,600 hours of field and laboratory instruction for over 100 Chicago area youth. District law enforcement staff have investigated and deterred vandalism and looting activities on several high profile archaeological sites situated on District property.
The success of this unique program continues to be possible only through the strong sense of stewardship modeled by agency and department heads, namely President Preckwinkle, Superintendent Randall, and Resource Management Department Director McCabe, and Deputy Director O’Leary.
I speak for myself, the staff at ISAS’s Northern Illinois Field Station, and for professional archaeologists throughout Illinois, in expressing a sincere thank you and hearty congratulations.
Paula Porubcan Branstner