The Peoria Park District is working to buy Forest Park Nature Center.
The park district has managed the nature center for decades, but the land is owned by the Forest Park Foundation. About two years ago, the foundation informed the park district it is looking to shut itself down.
On Wednesday, park district board trustees will vote on applying for two grants from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to help them purchase the 389-acre nature preserve.
Peoria Park District Executive Director Emily Cahill said the park district’s commitment to maintaining public access to the nature preserve makes it a good fit.
“We think that makes the most sense for our community, because really, the park district is, I think who people think of when they think of open green space in our community, along with open advocacy groups," she said.
Public access is not a requirement for nature preserves under the law.
Aside from some trail upgrades and applying for a grant to bring new exhibits to the A-frame building, she says the park district wouldn’t change much at the park under full ownership.
“We really think that Forest Park Nature Center is a gem," she said. "Part of the grant process would provide some dollars for us to do some trail enhancement, add some amenities there.”
The park district could only receive one of the IDNR grants, which could provide up to $750,000 in dollar-to dollar matching funds for Peoria Park District spending from reserves. Cahill said the combined amount would get them in the ballpark of the money they need to purchase the land.
The park district would have two years to complete the purchase if one of the grants is approved.