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Sugar Grove man spearheads ‘turtle crossing’ signs

SUGAR GROVE – After nearly 10 years of seeing turtles crossing a busy road near his house – and seeing many injured by passing cars – Sugar Grove resident Eric Schaaf has taken it upon himself to help save the reptiles.

With permission from the village, he said, he purchased two "turtle crossing" signs for $130 that public works personnel installed May 20 on Norris Road.

Schaaf hopes the signs will get motorists to slow down.

"People tend to go down that road pretty fast as a cut-through," he said. "Turtles get hit all the time."

Schaaf, whose knowledge of turtles stems from a boyhood interest in the creatures, said adult female turtles cross roads as they make their way to higher ground to lay eggs, and snapping turtles will crawl several blocks as they seek out a soft area away from water to dig their nest.

Norris Road splits the Walnut Woods subdivision retention pond and Carson Slough Park, Schaaf said.

Schaaf, who lives in Walnut Woods, said he regularly patrols Norris Road with his sons, Grant, 14, and Brent, soon to be 11, for turtles in peril.

Although they leave the dead and injured turtles for the other wildlife, Schaaf said, they help adult snapping turtles, adult painted turtles and hatchlings get to safety.

"We've collected them off the roads since we've been here," Schaaf said, estimating they save 10 to 20 each year.

After repeatedly saying he should get "turtle crossing" signs, Schaaf finally had enough. He said he emailed the village for permission and indicated which existing signposts could be used.

The village responded within 24 hours, Schaaf said.

"We were super happy," he said.

Tony Speciale, Sugar Grove's director of public works, said requests like Schaaf's are reviewed on an individual basis, and the village makes a decision on the situation and cost to the village.

In this case, Speciale said, the village's role was installing the signs on existing signposts.

"This was discussed in the past by other residents, and basically this resident presented a proposal and a solution [that] he thought would solve the situation," Speciale said, "and we agreed."

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