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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: Pay a visit to Grasslands’ visitors center

While an official grand opening of Nachusa Grasslands’ new visitors center won’t take place until spring, people can go to the new pavilion now, weather permitting, to check it out. We hope it and the bison attract even more people to the region.

The new visitor center at the Nachusa Grasslands is open to the public. Some additional work will take place on the site. Photo by Earleen Hinton
The new visitor center at the Nachusa Grasslands is open to the public. Some additional work will take place on the site. Photo by Earleen Hinton

Sometimes people who live near major attractions don’t take the time to visit them themselves.

We know, for example, of someone who lived in the Washington, D.C., area who never visited the Washington Monument.

There are probably residents of New York City who haven’t been to the Empire State Building, or Chicago residents who haven’t been to the top of the John Hancock Center or Willis Tower.

And in the Sauk Valley, there are likely residents who have yet to visit a premier natural attraction owned by The Nature Conservancy.

We speak of Nachusa Grasslands, which straddles the Lee and Ogle county line north of Franklin Grove.

The 3,000-acre restored prairie site gives visitors an excellent idea of what the entire region must have looked like before settlers first began arriving in earnest in the Sauk Valley after the conclusion of the Black Hawk War of 1832.

Beyond that, it is a refuge for numerous plants, birds, insects and animals, including a herd of bison that was established there in 2014.

The flora and fauna (and the bison!) that live at the restored prairie are reason enough to schedule a visit there.

And now, there’s a new reason to go: the opening of a new, environmentally friendly visitor center.

The center is a pavilion that sits at the top of a gently sloping hill at 2075 S. Lowden Road. It has educational panels that tell the story of the grasslands, expanded parking, a hand pump with potable water, boulders that people can climb on or sit on, and self-composting toilets.

Cody Considine, a restoration ecologist, is excited about the visitor center and its potential to encourage more people to, well, visit.

“People will be able to come and get a great sense of the prairie and maybe get a look at the bison and other wildlife,” Considine said.

School groups in particular are expected to benefit from visits to the pavilion and then self-guided tours the students can take through the preserve.

The January thaw won’t last, but there will be other milder winter days (we hope!) when a trip to Nachusa Grasslands could be just the ticket to combat cabin fever.

Or people can just wait to go until the visitor center’s official grand opening in the spring.

People who visit Washington, New York and Chicago can marvel at what humankind has made.

People who visit Nachusa Grasslands can marvel at what nature has made, with a little restorative help from humankind.

We say, put it on your list of places to pay a visit to this year.

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