The Rockford Files

Where the Blacktop Ends

It’s springtime once again in Rockford, when a young man’s fancy turns to bailing out his basement.  The old downtown and the residential neighborhoods built up through the 1940’s sit on clay soil, on top of rock.  The effect, when the spring rains come and the dry clay cannot absorb the water quickly enough, is to send new homeowners scurrying to Home Depot to discover that their neighbors have bought the last wet/dry vac.  After a year or two, Rockfordians settle into a pattern and offer a little prayer of gratitude when, occasionally, summer rolls around and their basements have remained dry.  Nature intrudes, and man, as he has for millennia, adjusts.

Rockford is known as “The Forest City,” and not without reason.  Once they get past the strip malls and vinyl-sided developments of East State Street, visitors are often surprised by the number of trees, expecting, I guess, every Midwestern industrial city to look like Steubenville, Ohio.  We do have our “brownfields,” especially in the southeastern part of the city, but even those tend to be surrounded by green.  Wildlife—squirrels, birds (including turkeys, hawks, and eagles), raccoons, opossums, even the occasional deer—is abundant.  It is in the post-industrial landscapes of the last 50 years—with their Wal-Marts, chain restaurants, and suburbs built on fertile farmland—where...

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