Ever wonder why Illinois is called the Prairie State? The College of DuPage is offering tours of one of their prairies for you to find out.
Located on COD’s campus, the 18 acres of the Russell R. Kirt Prairie is helping educate anyone walking on its path.
“The natural areas here we’ve been giving tours of since Russell Kirt started it. He was the first to give the tours in the 80s, 90s, and 00s,” said Remic Ensweiler, the Outdoor Lab/Prairie Manager at College of DuPage who now guides the prairie tours. “But we start off with talking about what is a prairie, what is a habitat, why Illinois is the Prairie State, what the process of ecological restoration entails, converting land that’s been invaded by weedy plants and invasive plants and converting them to habitats with native plants and native animals.”
The free tours are open to anyone interested in hiking through the prairie for fun.
“I drive by this prairie quite a bit and I remember that my son actually helped Russell R. Kirt when it was being installed,” said Jean Rosen, a first timer of the prairie tour.
It’s also for students looking to learn outside of the classroom.
“This is actually for an environmental biology course I’m taking here at COD this summer. It was kind of a hands-on extra credit opportunity to get a visual tour of some biology life,” said Ross Summers, a student at College of DuPage.
Less than .01 percent of Illinois’ original 21 million acres of prairie remains today. The tours are an opportunity to not just enjoy nature, but also learn about what you can do to help it grow.
“The main benefit being in such an urban area is to connect people with nature, to connect students with nature and also the community,” said Ensweiler. “Because we have the forum of the community college and being in such a populated area, we have the opportunity to affect a lot of people positively.”
College of DuPage also has many volunteer opportunities for those interested in helping restore the prairies.
Tours take place every other Tuesday at 10 a.m. and on select Wednesday evenings. More information on dates and times of the tours can be found on the College of DuPage’s website.