Community Center Planned at New Park (IL)

St. Louis, MO, 1/2/2003 – The Trust for Public Land announced today the acquisition and conveyance of a 40-acre dormant farm to become part of the Collinsville Area Recreation District (CARD). This property will be developed as a new community education center and will create a bluff line conservation area and gives the district a total of eight park sites.

“This is an opportunity for land to be a teacher,” notes Larry Levin, St. Louis Director of the Trust for Public Land. “As the land use changes around this community, we want pass onto the children a greater understanding of the community’s roots in agriculture.”

“Not only are we creating a public greenway for trails,” states Mark Badasch, CARD Executive Director, “we’ve committed to passing on a small piece of the region’s history in the form of an interpretive farm.”

In the heart of Southwestern Illinois suburbs, Collinsville is experiencing a loss of open space as new housing and business developments encroach onto land that was traditionally used for agricultural purposes. Plans for the farm include revitalizing the it into a community education center covering family farming practices as well as conservation and restoration of the bluff line area overlooking the American Bottom. With an elementary school located adjacent to the property, this working interpretive farm and conservation area will teach the region’s youth about the disappearing lifestyle of their rural community and conditions that existed prior to urban development.

To bring this farm into public ownership, TPL negotiated with the private landowners while the park district applied for a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Southwestern Illinois Resource, Conservation and Development (RCD) organization, headquartered in Mascoutah, also assisted the park district with preparation of a conservation easement which guarantees that there will not be any development on the property. The RCD will continue to partner with CARD to develop and implement a master plan for the site.

The park district hired a private firm to prepare a master plan to guide the development of the center. Several public meetings have been held and a preliminary plan showing several options for interpretive activities on the farm and conservation area is expected to be presented this April. Information about progress on the Willoughby Farm master plan can be found on the district’s web site at CARD was created by public referenda in 1990 and distributes a Program Guide listing its various facilities, services and activities which are available for all ages. To obtain a copy of the latest program guide call CARD at 346-7529.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Nationally, TPL has protected over 1.3 million acres of land valued at $2.39 billion. TPL is an active partner in the Confluence Greenway. Last fall, TPL acquired for the Illinois Department of Natural Resource 2000 acres of the Chouteau island complex including Mosenthien Island. With offices in St. Louis and Chicago, TPL works throughout Illinois and the St. Louis metropolitan region. This past year, TPL teamed up with the Illinois Association of Park Districts to produce Illinois Land At Risk: A Statewide Assessment of Public Park and Green Space Needs.