Sylvan Island Kevin Danforth/ David Zemke Professor Tweet College Writing 101-15 16 Nov. 2000 The Sylvan Island Dream Jumping into the water from a dam, running around through the trees, and fishing from the shore were some of the many exciting activities experienced by a young little boy on Sylvan Island during the 1930s. Although these times were plentiful, they would soon diminish over the years. Republic steal which provided many jobs for members of the community went out of business and left no one to maintain proper care for this childs playground. This island that once supported trails for people to walk and ride bikes, open land for family picnics, and a peaceful atmosphere for one to relax was now full of pollution and brush that made it impossible for one to enjoy. Nothing was really made of the island until the 1960s when Professor Norm Moline from the geography department at Augustana College decided to take a class over for fieldwork. At the time the only intention was to provide labs and experimentation for the students. As the class continued, the students focus started to involve the islands history and possible changes that could be made to the island in the future.
What originally started out as a class project now turned out to be a starting point in returning childhood memories to many who spent time making this island their home. Many students and faculty had long and short-term ideas of what could be done to restore the island back into what it used to be. Eventually many volunteered hours of hard work would be spent restoring the island. The project would not however be completed by professor Moline and his students. It would become a starting point in which a once young boy named Jesse Perez who experienced and grew up with the beauty of the island, would take over and continue the quest in making Sylvan Island a home for many to experience the islands pleasures for years to come. History of the Island Sylvan Island was created in 1865 because the U.S.
government needed more power in order to make a weapon store for the arsenal in Rock Island. The government and Moline Water Power Co. decided to make a dam that would provide power for the arsenal as well as the water company. The government would supply for all the expenses but the water company would supply the land needed. Plans for the dam were concluded in 1869 and stated that the dam would be connected to the mainland at 6th Street.
The dam would continue along the island until it crossed the channel into Rock Island. By 1871, all creations of the dam were completed and both Moline Water and the arsenal received the power needed. Between 1941 and 1942 Mid American Energy moved the dam to the eastern part of the island. Since then, no changes have been made. In 1894 Sylvan Island was leased to Sylvan Steel Company which would take over the island.
The mill would on average produce 25,000 tons of steel every year. This amount was so high because in 1898 a 5-ton furnace was purchased, and could produce refined iron, hard and soft steel, agricultural iron, merchant bar steel, and steel shapes. There were also coal and gas-fired furnaces along with four mills ranging from eight to sixteen inches. That same year Sylvan Steel and Republic Iron and Steel Company of Chicago would merge and become Republic Steel. There would be a total of 150 employees.
When the two companies joined, the manufacturing of steel would now be from used rail steel. Many different agricultural tools and supplies were now produced due to the merger. The most prosperous year came in 1931 when 38,605 tons of steel was produced. Republic Steel would be in business until 1956. Many different conclusions have been made as to why the plant shut down.
If you were one of the laborers, you would probably say the reason was because the steel being produced was too thick and unable to be cut easily, so large companies such as John Deer would no longer purchase from the plant. Owners of Republic Steel said the reason for the companys depletion is because the costs for operation increased, proper rails being produced were in decline, and the demand for steel products was weak. The company would then sell off all remaining products and move into their plant in Chicago. The island had more to it than just a steel company. Two bridges connected the island to the mainland. The wagon-bridge was built in 1871 after the dam was completed.
This connected the island to 2nd street. All vehicles coming on the island would cross this bridge. In 1901 reconstruction was made to the bridge because it couldnt support heavier vehicles. After the plant closed the bridge was restricted for pedestrians only and given to the city of Moline in 1975 by the U.S. army.
The other bridge was the railroad-bridge. It was developed in 1867 for the in-take of raw materials and the delivery of finished supplies. Both bridges are still in existence and mainly used for visitors coming onto the island. Other parts of the island in the 1890s created some profit including a stone quarry and ice cutting in the winter. The quarry wasnt very big, only maintaining 60 feet of the island, but produced Devonian limestone.
This didnt last long and eventually turned into a little lake. This would be home for many children who would swim or ice-skate, and fish for sunfish. There was no real supervision, and a couple of children were reported to have drowned so the lake was filled and kept from being used. In the winter for about twenty years after the 1890s ice was cut from the surrounding waters of the island. The blocks were taken by the Sylvan Ice Company and put in wooden storage buildings.
The ice was then sprinkled with sawdust so that it would last until spring for sale or city use. The storage buildings could store 18,000 tons of ice. Finally there was an area of land that was designated for the use of planting gardens. The main crop grown was sugar cane. Free seeds were given in the mail and it resulted in the making of syrup, but many different vegetables were grown as well.
People would plant their crops and fish from the edges of the island. This was a free meal at a time when people in many cases had no money to buy food (Thomas Greene). Augustana Student and Faculty Involvement Imagine being a geography teacher and you need a project for your class that can be both a learning experience as well as interesting to the students. What could be better than an unoccupied 38-acre island on the Mississippi River? Professor Molines introductory geography class of 21 students would travel but five minutes from their school and enter a piece of history that at the time had been forgotten. The main goals of the lab were to discover the history of the island, record and research the physical surroundings, and make plans for future preservation of the island.
(Norm Moline) Many of the students and faculty were interested in what was going to be made of the island. They didnt want the island to be overlooked and not maintained. This was a part of nature and the past, and the members of this group felt that something had to be done. A project like this, which had no real means of financial support or organizational background, had to put many hours of hard volunteer work into the reconditioning of the island. The whole process of clearing brush, making paths, and cleaning up trash took about a year.
Many of the participants were only able to work small amounts of time, but in some cases members would spend 40 hours a week on the island. The most useful students included the females. They were hard working and focused on their goal at all times (Jesse Perez). All in all, if it werent a team project then nothing would have been accomplished at the rate it did. Not only did the members of Augustana help bring back a landscape to its original state, help bring back memories of the past, they also started a new movement that still continues on into present time. The project needed support and funds to continue, so many organizations were contacted and eventually helped the progression. One financial contributor included Don Moore, an author who knew Pastor Swanson from Augustana (Norm Moline).
Also in memory of Thomas Wallace Rogers, close friends and family raised thousands of dollars in his honor. Thomas Rogers was a man that was happy about life and loved the outdoors and supported many different efforts to make nature pure. After his death, Rogers would eventually be recognized on a memorial at Sylvan Island. The Thomas Wallace Rogers visitor center was constructed in his honor to greet visitors as they cross the bridge to the island. There were also organizations such as the Western Hemisphere Conference on Health that helped physically. This groups goal was to make pollutants on the island resources.
They recycled all the cans and papers that were not properly disposed of. One last organization that helped recondition the island was the River Action Incorporated. Headed by Kathy Wine, their goal was to put pieces of public art on the island. Her efforts provided things such as fountains and statues to add charisma to the island.(Norm Moline) Plans for the Future Now that the members working on the island in the 1970s had money and resources, they could start making new plans for the island. Many goals were brought about.
The goals ranged from maintaining the island as a natural place to witness Gods creation of nature, and to add many different physical additions to the island to make it more suitable for pedestrians. The physical additions and deductions included: pedestrians only (walking or bicycle riding), access only for city vehicles on railroad bridge, tear down the machine shed left by Republic Steel, keeping all habitats and vegetation on island unharmed during cleaning process, regulate a no dumping of wastes procedure, mount trash cans throughout island, install toilets, regulate hunting, place site markers stating different features of that part of island, allow vegetation to continue growth, make a parking area at entrance on 2nd street, and increase police supervision. All of these plans have been administered over the years and continue on into the present. The only section from the original plan still being worked on involves the toilets. In recent years new plans have been made and Sylvan Island has acquired many new additions. There are now seven trails running a total of 2.8 miles throughout the island.
There are five picnic tables, seventeen benches, and a number of markers pointing out what kind of fish are near that spot of land. Two piers are designated for fisherman and anyone interested in looking out over the water. There are also two handicap access points on the island. The island is set up in points ranging from dense forest, light forest, and land where the quarry used to be. At the Thomas Rogers visitor center a description of the history and makeup of the island is presented.
There are still ideas that have not been accomplished yet. A group by the name of Sylvan Island Dreamers is in the process of making these changes. Jesse Perez, Gary Madson, and Thomas Greene, and Professor Moline are all on the committee. Current plans for the island include the purchasing of the used car lot to the southwest of the island and turn it into a green spot and more accessible parking for the public. A recreational building meant for public use and such things as boy scouts and school functions is in the early stages of development. The plans are being finalized and money will soon be getting raised for the project.
Current Physical Makeup of Sylvan Island Since Sylvan Steel Company began its involvement on the island in 1894, the vegetation and geographical makeup of the island has changed dramatically. On the eastern half of the island, almost all of the vegetation was cut down and almost all of the soil was covered by machinery. Because almost all of the vegetation and natural habitat was lost, secondary succession started again in 1956 after the Sylvan Steel Company closed. Secondary succession is the natural process by which nature gradually works it way back into an area were it was once lost. After the closing of the plant, the vegetation of the island gradually started to come back and adapted to the new surroundings of the area.
Weeds and grass started to work their ways through the cracks of the cement and machinery. Because they can survive easily in most soil and living conditions, they are known as the pioneers of secondary succession. They start the process of secondary succession by being the first sign of any vegetation and produce seeds that then spread throughout the area. As the taller grass grew, some of the surrounding plants and weeds were killed due to lack of light. As more seeds began to spread across the area, seedlings and bushes started to grow along with taller trees whose roots penetrated and broke up the foundations of the leftover steel companys buildings and machinery. As the trees grew taller, they provided a canopy for the wildlife beneath and provided homes and an invitation for the wild habitat to come back to the eastern half of the island. Geology and Landform Sylvan Island is underlain by the Cedar Valley and Wapsipinicon formations of Devonian limestone.
Throughout most of the island, the limestone is within six to eight inches of the surface and topsoil. The depth of each formation goes about 30 feet deep with a total thickness of sixty feet of limestone (Moline 29-30). Since limestone is such a desirable building material, it was once quarried on the island. Since the island is so high in relation to the surrounding waters (the Sylvan Slough and south channel of Mississippi), it is often not effected by floods or high water. The shoreline is often steep down …