Someone to Know: Keith McClow
What do you do at the Forest Preserve District? How do you see that role support the District?
I am the manager of heritage education and I help the district tell the story of the land. Much of the land owned by the Forest Preserve District was shaped by natural forces but also by people. You can see it as many preserves are named after the farm families that lived and worked that land. I help tell the story of our agricultural heritage by making Kline Creek Farm live as an 1890s farm so the people of DuPage County can experience the past and the story of the land that makes up DuPage County.
To date, what has been the best (or most interesting) part of your job at the Forest Preserve District?
Interacting with visitors is always the best part of my job. People come to Kline Creek Farm for many reasons, but I am sure most do not think they are coming to gain a perspective on their own lives. A young visitor, while touring the farmhouse, observed to her mother, “They do not have a garbage can in the bedroom.” She gained a new perspective about how in the past things lasted for a long time and had multiple uses, in contrast to today’s throwaway culture.
What did you study in college? How do you use that knowledge in your career?
I have a bachelor's degree in business management and a masters degree in historical administration. This training taught management and how to treat our heritage. Our heritage belongs to all of us. It helps us understand where we come from and if it is not cared for it can be lost.
What experience do you bring to your position with the District?
I bring 30 years’ management experience including for-profit businesses, not-for-profit museums and government.
What would you like DuPage County residents and forest preserve visitors to know about our natural areas and resources?
The natural resources we have in DuPage County are amazing and offer excellent educational and recreational opportunities. Get outside and go camping at Blackwell, see the fall colors at Herrick Lake, canoe on the DuPage River, visit a nature center, take your dog for a walk, fly a model airplane and above all go see the farmers at Kline Creek Farm.
How do you see your department working with others at the District?
My department is on the front line making sure visitors enjoy their visit to Kline Creek Farm, but there is a lot of work going on that visitors never see. We need help maintaining the buildings, marketing the programs, keeping the vehicles running and much more. Visitors benefit from the work of the whole District when they come for a visit.
How do you use DuPage forest preserves?
I have hiked or ridden by bike on almost all of the District trails. I have paddled my canoe on many forest preserve lakes. I have taken my children to all of the education centers.
What is your favorite preserve?
Churchill Woods, because I can walk to it from my house.
Why do you enjoy working for the Forest Preserve District?
It gives me a chance to share my love of history with visitors.
What are your personal interests? Do you have any nature-related hobbies?
I love to canoe and camp.
What do you like to do in your time away from work?
For the last 13 years, I have been enjoying being a dad of twins, and they take up a lot of my time.
How do you make a difference in DuPage County?
Our county has changed over the past 150 years and I give visitors a chance to gain a perspective on that change. I hope they use what they learn from our heritage to make good decisions about our future.
What’s your favorite forest preserve animal? Why?
Cows because they are very gentle.
What question do patrons ask you most? What is your answer?
It is a toss-up between “Are you Amish?” and “Where is the bathroom?”
What question hasn’t been asked of you, and why is that important?
I have been asked a lot of questions and in a lot of languages and by people aged 2 to 102. I cannot think of a question that has not been asked yet.
What’s your favorite season in DuPage forest preserves?
All the seasons are important and lead into the next. It is a modern luxury to look at seasons one at a time. One hundred years ago, people had work to do in each season so the next season would be successful. People had a different relationship with the weather, one that few people understand today.
What do you want others to know about you?
I pick up garbage wherever I go.
What three words best describe you?
I have dyslexia and am not good with words.
What inspires you in nature? Why do you like to share that with others?
I like to canoe in wilderness areas and I like to see the religious symbols or pictographs left behind by the people who lived there hundreds of years ago. I do not know the religious significance of the symbols as they were left by another culture, but seeing a 400-year-old hand print lets me know they were there. I hope the heritage that I am working to preserve can have an impact 400 years from now.