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Derek Harms Endowed Fund For Grassy Lake

In Memory of Derek Austin Harms

July 1997–April 2018

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Derek Austin Harms had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors. In recent years, Derek climbed canyons in Utah, kayaked through the Apostle Islands and even hiked glaciers in New Zealand. But his love of nature started right here, in Lake County, Illinois, enjoying the trails, parks and open spaces with his family. 

Learn more about Derek

As a youngster, Derek played, hiked, and admired wildlife in and around his hometown of Barrington. He also fished, canoed, swam and water-skied in the area’s beautiful rivers and lakes.

Derek had a warm and engaging personality; and could light up any setting with his energy and enthusiasm. Growing up, he showed a talent for leadership in numerous clubs, activities and sports. And he was always eager to explore with his family, enjoying frequent trips to local, regional and national parks, from the Everglades to the Redwoods.

Upon reaching college-age, Derek chose to study at Winona State University in Minnesota. He excelled in his studies and campus activities (which included hosting a live music show on KQAL radio and playing Ultimate Frisbee on WSU’s team.) Through the school’s Outdoor Education and Recreation club, Derek went on many excursions around the U.S., and through WSU’s Pacific Challenge program--he also studied abroad in New Zealand and Australia.

In his junior year at WSU, Derek was thriving as a Commercial Recreation major and Communications minor. He had detailed plans for his future and legions of loyal friends, when he perished in a tragic snowboarding accident on April 8, 2018.

The sudden loss of Derek Harms has impacted many. Derek is missed immeasurably. In an effort to keep in motion the spirit of community involvement and outdoor enjoyment that Derek embodied, the Harms family has partnered with the Preservation Foundation to dedicate this beautiful setting in loving memory of Derek. It will serve as a spot for reflection, rejuvenation and celebration of the quiet majesty of nature.

The Riverwoods Scenic Overlook

The beautiful Riverwoods Scenic Overlook at Grassy Lake Forest Preserve is part of an ongoing preservation effort that reflects Derek's love for all things outdoors.

Through your continued support, activities such as invasive species control, replanting of native seeds, shrubs, and trees can be carried out, so that the Grassy Lake Forest Preserve can adapt to changing climatic conditions. The Grassy Lake Endowment provides a permanent source of funding to care for this 689-acre forest preserve for future generations. Thank you for helping this project continue to flourish.

The Site Includes:

  • 18” x 24” Bronze plaque in Derek’s name mounted to a large boulder.
  • A permanent rustic wood bench and additional boulders.
  • 3-Swamp White Oak trees, each with an 8” engraved plaque positioned at the base.
  • Informational forest preserve sign.
  • A beautiful overview of the wooded Grassy Lake Preserve against the Fox River.

For images of the site and more information about other memorial gestures in Derek's name click here

Images of Riverwood Scenic Overlook at Grassy Lake Forest Preserve

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The Harms family has also initiated other memorial gestures in Derek’s name, and is deeply appreciative of all levels of participation friends and family have shown to support:

  • The Sierra Club, National Parks and the National Arbor Foundation.
  • Scholarships at WSU: The Derek Harms Leadership Award and an OERC Travel Award.
  • The planting of three white oaks, with plaques and a bench at Citizens Park in Barrington.
  • Donations to the National Eagle Center for eagle care.
  • The creation of the Derek Harms Kindness Award at Camp Deerhorn in Rhinelander, WI.
  • The dedication of three yellow birch trees, honoring Derek at the Winona State University Campus.

As an independent 501c3 charitable organization, donations to the Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. The Preservation Foundation’s federal tax ID number is 26-0285660.

We are most grateful and honored for the ongoing support by the donations made in Derek’s name. This truly honors his memory, deep love of nature…and all things outdoors.

Thanks to your generosity, more than $55,500 has been raised to support the Derek Harms Endowed Fund. You can continue to be a part of this effort with a donation of any amount. Every additional dollar will grow Derek’s Fund to care for Grassy Lake in perpetuity.

To pay by check, send your donation made out to the Preservation Foundation to:

The Preservation Foundation of the
Lake County Forest Preserves
c/o Derek Harms
1899 W. Winchester Rd
Libertyville, IL 60048

To make a gift by phone, call us at 847-968-3110.