Restoration of ‘Rockford’s Founding Site’ begins May 5

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens is partnering with several community organizations to restore “Rockford’s Founding Site” (pictured) to its origin as an 1834 Illinois prairie meadow. (Photo provided)

Staff Report

Beginning May 5, Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens is partnering with several community organizations to restore “Rockford’s Founding Site” to its origin as an 1834 Illinois prairie meadow.

The dry, short-grass prairie meadow first visited by Germanicus Kent, Lewis Lemon and Thatcher Blake is across from Tinker Swiss Cottage on the north bank of Kent Creek. The cottage’s suspension bridge provides easy access to the prairie meadow site.

The prairie initiative has received funding through a grant in the amount of $2,000 from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and with the support of an additional grant from Wild Ones.

In addition to Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens, the partners include Angelic Organics Learning Center, University of Illinois Extension Service’s Master Naturalist program, Natural Land Institute, Rockford Park District, Severson Dells Nature Center, and the YouthBuild and Comprehensive Community Solutions-Eco-Advocates program.

Beverly Broyles, Tinker’s executive director, said each organization brings to the table its own area of expertise, and its own desire to reach a new and expanded audience.

“By working in collaboration, the partners will design a curriculum that encourages responsible stewardship and conservation of our natural resources, develop leadership and leadership opportunities for youth and minorities in the economically disadvantaged neighborhood of southwest Rockford, and enhance an awareness of regional environmental issues,” Broyles said.

Following preparation of the 1-acre site by the Rockford Park District and selection of appropriate native seeds and plants by several Illinois Master Naturalists, the early phases of the project will include elementary and middle school students and scouts doing hands-on activities like broadcasting seed and planting small 2-inch plugs of grasses and forbs, or “flowers.”

Lenae Weichel, one of the Master Naturalists working on the project, said, “After the seeds are spread evenly over the site, kids love to do what’s called ‘a buffalo stomp,’ which means running back and forth over the same area to work the seeds into the soil.”

The final phase, planned for fall 2011, will involve high school students who, in addition to learning about Illinois prairie restoration, will be responsible for planning and planting native shrubs and trees as part of the site.

“Successful establishment of the prairie meadow will likely take five years,” Broyles said. “That will give the partners lots of opportunities to work with schools and scouts to seed, plant and manage the site. All are opportunities for learning.”

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens is a public museum, funded in part by the Museum Tax levy dollars distributed through the Rockford Park District.

Tinker’s mission is to preserve, protect and interpret the authentic history, heritage and culture of Tinker Swiss Cottage for community and economic vitality.

For more information about the Rockford Founding Site Prairie Restoration project, call (815) 964-2424 or visit the Tinker website at www.tinkercottage.org.

From the April 27-May 3, 2011, issue

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