From the press release:
Allerton receives grants for trails, environmental education
Monticello –Allerton Park & Retreat Center was recently awarded two grants, which will be used for trail improvements and environmental education programming. In recent years the Park, which is a unit of the University of Illinois, has increased its focus on securing private support from individual donations and granting organizations in an attempt to close the gap in funding as support from the University decreases.
The larger of the two awards, for $36,920, is from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Recreational Trails Program, and will be used to repair eroded sections of the existing 14-mile trail system. Allerton staff applied for the grant in 2014, but because of the state budget impasse the funds were just recently distributed. The money will help continue Allerton’s goal of making the natural areas more accessible. Monthly public hikes have been helping that effort, but now several trail improvements will aid the initiative as well.
“We’ve added a wooden boardwalk and numerous gravel turnpikes over wet sections of trail, and we have realigned stretches of trail to make them safer and less prone to erosion,” explained Allerton’s Natural Areas Manager Nate Beccue. “With an improving trail system, we hope more people will come out to appreciate the beauty of Sangamon River corridor and enjoy the natural areas that we are working hard to preserve.”
The second award is a “mini-grant” from The Environmental Education Association of Illinois (EEAI) for $350, which will be used by Allerton’s Volunteer and Education Committee to develop a curriculum to facilitate local school participation in environmental education through hikes at Allerton.
This spring, 125 5th grade students from Washington Elementary in Monticello will visit Allerton for the initial full-day field trip, taking part in environmental lessons and hikes focused on five topics: prairie, woodland and wildflowers, pond study, formal gardens, and science and art with journaling. The Committee will analyze post-survey results, revising and adding lessons as needed, with plans to expand the program to additional schools in the fall of 2017.
“The ultimate goal is to develop an ongoing school outreach program that will provide a venue for students to become acquainted with ecosystems and science process skills by linking nature curriculum to state and national science standards,” explained committee member Georgiean Benson.
The reusable equipment and materials used for the field trips will also be used as resources and guides to foster self-directed exploration at Allerton Park.
“We hope that the students will be motivated to come back to the Park with their parents for individual exploration,” Benson continued.“Overall, we want to facilitate authentic nature experiences for the next generation, helping them to understand our natural world and teaching them to protect nature as stewards of the environment.”