Fall Newsletter 2023


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The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest is a nonprofit organization that supports the Shawnee National Forest by promoting land stewardship, environmental education and responsible outdoor recreation. 

Fall in the Shawnee National Forest is dramatic with the leaves changing to a spectacular array of colors. Enjoy the beauty of Southern Illinois. Plan ahead. Check the weather, dress for the occasion, and always carry plenty of water. Not sure where you’re going? Visit our website for maps and other fun items to help remember your Shawnee National Forest adventure. Enjoy your stay and remember to leave it better than you found it.

Find out more information about the Shawnee National Forest at https://www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee.

The Friends is looking for a Chair, Co-chair and new Board Members

Board Chair and eight-year Board Member Tom Sadowski has stepped down from his duties as Board Chair due to a health emergency. We wish him all the best. The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest now needs someone like you. The Friends supports recreational and conservation efforts in the Shawnee National Forest by promoting land stewardship, environmental education, and responsible outdoor recreation.

Some of its activities include trail maintenance and stewardship, invasive plant removal, volunteer programs, litter cleanup, graffiti removal, and partnering with outdoor recreational programs. Behind the scenes, we partner with the United States Forest Service and other stakeholders using grants and agreements to ensure we live up to our mission and partnership with the Forest.

The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest is currently seeking a Chair and Co-Chair. These positions are voluntary. They would be ideal for retirees, professionals or those with free time who would like to get more involved with supporting the Shawnee National Forest. Help lead the leading organization that supports the recreation and conservation of the Shawnee National Forest.


  • Serve as the Chair of the Board of Directors.
  • Preside over monthly Zoom meetings.
  • Prepare and prioritize the agenda.
  • Supervise the Development Administrator as well as other officers’ positions.


  • Support the Chair of the Board of Directors.
  • Prepare and understand the chair’s role and duties.
  • Serve as Chair in the absence of the Chair.

If you’re interested in either of these opportunities or in becoming a Board Member, please email us at friendsoftheshawnee@gmail.com.


The Friends Board welcomes David Files

I am a Southern Illinois native, growing up a short drive from the Shawnee National Forest. As a child I remember visiting the area on family outings, never wanting the days to end. Unfortunately, those days did end. I became a young grownup and went off to college. College taught me all about mechanics, electrical, hydraulics/air logic, and blueprint reading, more than anyone would ever use in real life. The long road ahead of me took me to many different jobs, putting my playground farther behind me.

The first 15 years of work placed me in many different job duties all pertaining to my field of study. Year 16, put a little twist. Little did I know I was about to start using that Physiology 101 class that was never going to help me in the industrial field.

As club manager of the Elks Lodge, I still had to use my knowledge of all that other stuff along the way, but this was different for me. Dealing with all types of people, helping them plan their wedding receptions, birthday parties, and any other function that came along. Don’t forget all the other duties involved in running a social club, employee scheduling, payroll, billpaying, supply ordering, the list goes on.

Then one day I got a phone call from Toyota. A call that changes things for me with good pay, benefits, retirement plan, and opportunities for advancement. My time at Toyota started in Logistics, then in Logistics Safety, and finally Skilled Maintenance. After twenty years at Toyota, I retired in 2020 on my 56th birthday.

This long road I have traveled has brought me back to my playground, the Shawnee National Forest. It is an honor to be accepted to the Friends Board, helping promote the land and stewardship, educate others, and share in the responsibility of outdoor activities for others. Sharing that playground, I have such fond memories of and plan on making more.

Thanks so much.


National Public Lands Day Recap

Saturday, September 23 was National Publics Land Day. The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, along with the River to River Trail Society and the Shawnee National Forest worked together for a day of land stewardship at Garden of the Gods.

In total 33 volunteers helped remove 165 pounds of trash at various sites along the Observation Trail and the Pharoah Campground. In addition, a team removed some old graffiti along the Indian Point Trail.

Many thanks to Thrive of Metropolis for bringing a group out. Thrive has been a big help multiple times now with various land stewardship events in the Shawnee. 

We’ll keep you posted on more stewardship days and other events this fall and winter in the Shawnee. 

Volunteers Remove Graffiti at Bulge Hole 

On September 2, a group of volunteers along with Friends of the Shawnee Board Member Shawn Gossman took care of something that had been bothering a lot of people in the hiking community. The volunteers teamed with Shawnee National Forest Wilderness Tech Alyssa Macuiba and a member of the Public Relations Department and visited Bulge Hole Ecological Area to remove graffiti from the rock shelters.

Warrants were issued for the people responsible for the vandalism. Three people responsible for the graffiti were arrested, charged and convicted with destruction of federal property. These were felony convictions. They were fined and required to do public service. The three arrested were all over the age of 21 and Johnson County residents.

A lot of others are tired of seeing graffiti in our forests. If you see someone vandalizing the Shawnee National Forest, please report it. You can call or text 618-201-3364

Special thanks to Michelle Cochran for providing this recap.

Grantsburg Swamp Trash Blast Recap

Nice work at Grantsburg Swamp on Friday, October 6. Quite frankly, while it’s great news that we did this, it’s kind of sad we had to remove almost a quarter ton of garbage. 

The next First Friday trash blast will be on November 3 at Dutchman Lake. Please help make a difference and keep the Shawnee National Forest looking beautiful. 

Register at https://registration.extension.illinois.edu/start/fall-trash-blasts-2023 

3rd annual Non-native Invasive Species
removal at Garden of the Gods

Friends of the Shawnee National Forest and partners are holding our third annual Non-native Invasive Species (NNIS) autumn olive removal events starting Tuesday, November 7. Autumn olive is an aggressive invasive species that has infested Garden of the Gods for close to half a mile along the road to the Observation Trail and hundreds of feet deep in some areas.

We are hoping to have 5-7 teams of 3-4 people for each event. A team will consist of one   chainsaw-certified person cutting down trees, with 1-2 people removing and sometimes lopping trees and saplings, and a person applying herbicide.

The Friends of the Shawnee and our partners have made tremendous progress during the last two years of this project. With good weather and some fine stewards of the land (were looking at you), we are hoping to have most of the mature and sapling Autumn Olive trees removed by the end of this year’s events.

The NNIS removal is scheduled for Tuesdays Nov 7,14 and 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and Saturday, December 2 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Volunteers should wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes. Safety glasses, gloves, helmets, and other tools will be provided, but volunteers are welcome to bring their own personal protection equipment.

Please bring water and a snack. Volunteers will also receive a free long-sleeve orange “Volunteer and Steward of the Shawnee” T-shirt.

This project and these events are being held in cooperation with the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, the USDA Shawnee National Forest, University of Illinois Extension, and the Nature Conservancy of Illinois. 

Register at go.illinois.edu/NNISR2023Shawnee.. 

This is Where We Live

Become a Friends of the Shawnee National Forest Member

Consider becoming a new Member of the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest or renew your membership. Your support helps support out mission in promoting land stewardship, environmental education and responsible outdoor recreation.

All members receive:

  • Our quarterly e-newsletter.
  • Emails inviting them to stewardship events such as trash blasts and trail building.
  • The satisfaction of knowing they are supporting the Friends’ mission in promoting land stewardship, environmental education, and responsible outdoor recreation in the Shawnee National Forest.

Membership Levels

Sapling – $25
New Saplings now receive our Left it Better Decal. 
Redbud – $40
New Redbud Members receive a T-shirt.
Dogwood – $75
New Dogwood Members receive a T-shirt and their choice of east side or west side trail maps of the Shawnee.
Elm – $100
New Elm Members receive a T-shirt, their choice of east side or west side trail maps and annual recognition in our e-newsletter.
Ash – $250
New Ash Members receive all everything below, plus recognition of their name or business on our website. 

Visit https://www.joinit.org/o/friends-of-the-shawnee-national-forest

As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, membership and donations are tax deductible.

Shop Our Online Store

2024 Eclipse T-shirts Available in Adult and Youth

Shawnee National Forest items make great gifts, and your purchase helps support our mission.

Hoodie and beanie season is here. Consider purchasing a map, or two, or eight for your Shawnee adventure. 

Also available are Post Cards and Magnets featuring: Garden of the Gods, Inspiration Point, Little Grand Canyon, Burden Falls and Jackson Hole on our online store at  https://www.shawneefriends.org.