John Mullen, naturalist for the Forest Park Nature Center, stands beneath a giant oak tree in Singing Woods, a 700-acre oak and hickory forest north of Peoria which contains habitat nearly untouched by the destructive forces of man. Photo by Leslie Renken/Peoria Journal Star.
Peoria Park District seeking grant for visitor center next to Singing Woods Nature Preserve
PEORIA — Nature lovers may soon have yet another destination to enjoy the great outdoors, if the Peoria Park District receives a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The park district is seeking a grant of $350,000 that would go toward construction of a visitor’s center at the Tawny Oaks parcel of land next to the Singing Woods Nature Preserve. The grant is provided through the department’s Open Space Land and Acquisition Development program.
Park district spokesman Mike Miller says if the grant is received, a small facility will be constructed by renovating an existing horse barn on the property in an effort to help maintain the low-key nature of the preserve.
“Singing Woods was dedicated as a nature preserve, a process that basically protects those areas the highest,” Miller said. “What it will do is allow us to provide parking and a trailhead facility that will have information about the preserve and provide for restrooms and water fountains.”
The district held a public hearing at their board meeting Wednesday to announce they plan to seek the grant.
Tawny Oaks was a private, 28-acre horse farm before it was purchased in 2007 by the park district.
“Part of the grant will go to pay for trail work,” Miller said. “There are very primitive trails there, and we kind of want to keep them that way, they’ve always been there but what this does is provide the access points.”
But for those who can’t wait to have an easier way to access the trail network of the vast preserve, patience might be required.
“If it’s anything like grants we’ve sought in the past, it could take over a year to find out if we get it,” he said.