Into The Wild: Enjoy and volunteer at Nygren Wetland Preserve this spring
As with “No Child Left Inside,” welcome to a new series of articles in partnership with Four Rivers Environmental Coalition (FREC) and
The Rock River Times. In recognition of the United Nations designation of 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, the FREC sponsors this bi-weekly series to help readers discover the amazing array of plants and animals in the rivers, prairies and woodlands “in our own back yard.” FREC is an alliance of 35 member organizations “dedicated to educating and advocating for the plants, animals, natural resources and ecosystems of the Four Rivers Region.” Please visit www.fourriver.org.
By Jill Kennay
Assistant Director, Natural Land Institute
The watersheds of the Rock, Sugar, Pecatonica and Kishwaukee rivers in northwest Illinois contain a wealth of natural beauty and resources.
This week, FREC proudly showcases the following treasure of our local environment:
Nygren Wetland Preserve
3190 W. Rockton Road
In 2000, the Natural Land Institute (NLI) purchased a 721-acre farm located near Rockton with very little natural vegetation remaining. Raccoon Creek, which ran through the property, had been straightened and ditched.
Fueled by nearly 30,000 hours of volunteer time, NLI has largely restored the site to its native state—approximately 100 acres of prairie, 150 acres of woodland and 450 acres of wetlands through which Raccoon Creek once again meanders in its original channel. Among the many bird and animal species that have returned are river otters, Blanding’s turtles, sandhill cranes, and most recently, rare whooping cranes.
Visitors are welcome at the Nygren Wetland Preserve for special events. May 1 and June 12, families are invited to help with the ongoing restoration of the land by planting wildflowers. At Wildflower Weekend July 16-18, there will be programs, special activities for children and families, and guided tours of stunning midsummer wildflowers in full bloom. The entrance for these free events is at 3190 W. Rockton Road.
Located about a quarter mile west of the entrance at 3190 W. Rockton Road is the Dianne Nora Nature Trail. Access is through land owned by Rockton Township on Rockton Road opposite Hansberry Road. Visitors are welcome to hike the trail, a 2.5-mile grass footpath of moderate walking difficulty. The path is open most of the year, but may be closed during spring and fall migrations. The best place to observe birds at the preserve is at the overlook platform at the head of the Dianne Nora Nature Trail, where there is a small parking area. No restrooms are available.
A generous gift from Carl Nygren, left to NLI in his will, initiated the acquisition and restoration of the preserve 10 years ago. The area is named for Carl and his wife, Myrna. NLI’s partners in the Nygren Wetland Preserve project include the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Grand Victoria Foundation, Smith Charitable Foundation, Atwood Foundation, Nora Family, Rockton Township, Sinnissippi Audubon Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many generous individuals.
Founded in 1958 by George B. Fell of Rockford, the Natural Land Institute is one of the oldest, private, not-for-profit conservation groups in the Midwest. The group preserves forests, prairies and wetlands at areas like Pecatonica Ridge Prairie and Nieman Marsh in western Winnebago County, Castle Rock State Park near Oregon, Harlem Hills Prairie Nature Preserve in Loves Park and Franklin Creek Nature Preserve in Lee County.
For information: email@example.com, 815-964-6666,www.naturalland.org.
From the Feb. 17-23, 2010 issue
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