50 years ago, on November 4, 1964, the Boone County Conservation District was founded. The first conservation district in the state of Illinois, BCCD was begun with a concern for the fate of the old Rainbow Gardens site just east of Belvidere. Belvidere Jaycees began a search for ways of using the site as a wayside park. Upon investigation, by Jaycee member Attorney David Babb, a newly passed law, the Illinois Conservation District Act, was found to be the best possible method to ensure a future conservation area and open space system for the entire county.

A brief but furious campaign complete with campaign buttons saw the November 4, 1964 election passing the required referendum to establish the first Conservation District in Illinois.

George Fell of Rockford, the “father” of the Illinois Conservation District Act was called upon to assist in organizing and providing direction for the new district. As Director of the non-profit Natural Land Institute, Mr. Fell agreed to have the NLI absorb the BCCD’s operating expenses for several months until the district was able to financially operate on its own, then repay the NLI.

On March 1, 1968 the Boone County Conservation District hired its first Executive Director, Roger Gustafson. Roger was the first State Park Naturalist in the state of Illinois, was Assistant to the Director at the Natural Land Institute from 1967-1968, and was the Executive Director of the Boone County Conservation District March 1968 until June of 1992.

Since its inception the Boone County Conservation District has grown to encompass more than 3,500 acres and 25+ conservation areas. It took 48 years until the Rainbow Gardens site was finally owned by the Boone County Conservation District.

To celebrate the BCCD 50th anniversary there will be a dinner celebration at the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere on November 1, 2014. Highlights of the evening will include a one man play Aldo Leopold- A Standard of Change starring Jim Pfitzer of Chattanooga Tennessee and a program highlighting 50 years of conservation in Boone County.   Ticket price is $30 per person for dinner and the play. Learn more about the play at

The dinner menu consists of:

Herb-baked Chicken
Roast Beef
Mixed Vegetables
Wild Rice
Rosemary Potatoes

Contact the BCCD office to purchase tickets or for more information at 815-547-7935.