Letter to Editor: Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area provides education

To the Editor:

One of the purposes of Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area is to provide educational opportunities for the area’s youth. To accomplish this goal, a volunteer organization was organized. The Goose Lake Prairie Partners was chartered in March 1983 to help at the visitor center’s reception desk on weekends and at special events, to serve on path planning and maintenance, to serve on physical history display projects, to help do wildlife counts, to offer trail assistance to visitors, to do supervised programs and to run educational activities and events.

The partners have filled in when the park doesn’t have a nature interpreter, like now. The volunteers are trained to be able to answer visitors’ questions either from their own knowledge or their books.

Throughout the year, the volunteers host fifth grade classes from the county schools and home schoolers during the “Natural Resource Tour” sponsored by county ag office. Several times each year, they host other schools and youth groups, as well as adult groups. They talk about history, plant identification and animal habitats, as well as overseeing the planting of desirable plants or removing unwanted ones. Calls for group visits are planned around what the group wants to see or learn. Sometimes, the request is for a prairie wagon ride through the prairie.

Another activity of the partners is to receive, organize and maintain exhibits donated or bought by the partners. We maintain a library in the center to aid in nature and history research. At times, butterfly eggs are ordered and maintained as they grow into the adult butterfly stage and are released into the “butterfly barn” behind the visitor center.

One of the most important projects is an effort to open the center during Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. so visitors on weekends have a chance to visit the museum; identify plants, birds or animals; and visit the gift shop.

To bring attention to the park, the partners host two festivals a year and a photo contest/exhibit.

The Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area and the Goose Lake Prairie Partners are here to educate youth and adult visitors. All it takes is a visit or call for special arrangements. Visit the partners’ Facebook page (look for the Goose Lake Prairie Partners Inc.) and the website (gooselakeprairie.org). The phone at the visitor center desk is 815-942-2899.

Chuck Johnson

Morris