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'It's here I feel blessed:' Why Forest Park Nature Center is getting a Dan Fogelberg memorial

The Dan Fogelberg Memorial at RiverFront Park.
Fogelberg Foundation of Peoria
The Dan Fogelberg Memorial at RiverFront Park.

Another Dan Fogelberg memorial is finding its place in Peoria.

A proposal has been approved to designate four stones at Forest Park Nature Center to the late musician, with lyrics being etched into the rocks much like the memorial at Riverfront Park in downtown Peoria.

The Fogelberg Foundation of Peoria will provide funding for the project, which was approved by the Peoria Park District board on Feb. 28. This will be the third Fogelberg memorial in the city. Foundation co-founder Hugh Higgins thinks memorializing Fogelberg’s life story is important to preserving his memory.

“We should always remember our history, especially the best parts of our history,” Higgins said. “People want to remember those wonderful times that they had in their youth and pass those legacies and legends and memories on to the next generations, and the words are good enough. They’re strong enough and great enough to stand that test of time.”

Fogelberg is a Peoria native best known for his soft rock hits of the 1980s, including songs like “Longer”, “Same Old Lang Syne” and “Leader of the Band”. He’s sold over 20 million albums and was nominated for multiple Grammy awards before dying in 2007 from prostate cancer.

Fogelberg’s memory lives on through a memorial on the Peoria RiverFront built in 2010, a collection of six stones with lyrics to songs “Part of the Plan”, “Icarus Ascending”, “River of Souls” and “Ever On." The latter marks the trail leading into the park from the west. The Forest Park memorial will follow a similar format, as Higgins says the use of stones ensures the memorial feels natural.

When you sleep on the ground

With the stars in your face

You can feel the full length

Of the beauty and grace

In the wild places man

Is an unwelcome guest

But it’s here I am found

And it’s here I feel blessed.
Dan Fogelberg - The Wild Places

“Especially when you’re talking such a wonderful, beautiful nature preserve, natural granite stones have a beautiful fit,” Higgins said. “They sit and reside within the countryside and the trails and the woods and the trees and the leaves. They don’t stand out like a big, large, carved wooden sign or a slab. They’re natural and they look appropriate.”

The first song chosen for the Forest Park memorial is “The Wild Places”. Because its lyrics speak to the beauty and fragility of nature, Higgins and the rest of the foundation thought that putting it in a place that represents nature was a perfect fit. The proposal asks for these lyrics to be placed somewhere on the east side of the park’s building on the main trail.

“Being a nature preserve, we thought this would be a good place for it,” Higgins said.

The other song is “The Higher You Climb,” a piece that encourages determination and perseverance. The foundation wants its motivational lyrics to rest along Wilderness Trail, the steepest one in the park, rewarding hikers for staying committed on their journey to the top of the footpath.

“It’s [a trail] that makes you slow down and stop and take a breath, then resume and slow down and stop and take a breath and push on,” Higgins said. “That’s kinda what the lyrics do represent as far as aspiring to do better, to be better, just like hiking a steep trail.”

These locations have not been finalized, however, as the park has certain rules and regulations regarding memorials in the nature preserve. Higgins hopes the project will be completed by the end of July.

There is also a plaque with Fogelberg's lyrics on top of Tower Park in Peoria Heights that was made in 2016, offering another memorial for fans from all across the country to come visit. Higgins says the tourism relating to these sites is prominent, as their first memorial dedication brought fans from 38 states to the city, and the addition of another can only increase Peoria’s reach.

“We had an eager audience that wanted to continue to enjoy and embrace Peoria because we gave them such a wonderful experience,” Higgins said.

The Fogelberg Foundation is planning a dedication ceremony once the memorial is finalized, but until then they are hosting their annual Dan Fogelberg Celebration Weekend on August 9-11. You can check out their website to find more details once they become available.

Mason Klemm is a reporting intern for WCBU. He is studying sports communication at Bradley University and is expected to graduate in May 2024.