March 23, 2017

This year Thorn Creek Nature Center plans to do needed Nature Center building repairs and painting, and also scout and plan a new trail connector rather than pursue a replacement south bridge.

“We are excited to move forward on these projects this year. So many Friends members, volunteers and supporters contribute their time and funds to maintain Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve — a beautiful regional resource,” said Judy Dolan Mendelson, chair of the Thorn Creek Management Commission.

This economic and environmental decision came after detailed reviews of the projects at the January meetings of the Thorn Creek Management Commission and the Friends of Thorn Creek Woods Board of Directors. Many factors were considered.

Completing work on the Nature Center building is a major concern to all. In the last few years the building’s windows were repaired and replaced, the roof replaced and steeple repairs done. The next vital task is to repair the rotted beams and siding, and then to paint the building’s exterior.

“Today we have three and a half miles of exceptional trail experience here at Thorn Creek Nature Preserve. Even without the old south bridge, hikers walk the Woodland Trail to the old bridge site and then return, maybe taking a side trip to Owl Lake. A new connecting trail will be scouted to make the Woodland Trail a full loop again,” said naturalist April Richards. She added, “just this past winter volunteers repaired a badly eroded trail section on the Nature Center Loop. We’re planning a Clean Up Day and three Trail Workdays from March through June to continue trail improvements.”

The site for any south bridge replacement would present many difficulties, especially the long span needed and adjusting for the west bank being a full two feet lower than the east bank.

There are also concerns about the impacts to the woods expected with building any new bridge.

Importantly, there is no one good complete affordable design. The six designs available range from $27,000 to 50,000 plus additions plus permits. Additions mean ways to accommodate the much lower west bank and also the costs of boardwalk type ramps for a new bridge. Permits will be needed from the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission and then probably by Army Corps of Engineers. The ACOE permitting takes time, and may include hiring engineers and possible cost in the tens of thousands for the process.

Money for building repairs, any possible new south bridge and for trail repairs come from the Capital Fund established by Friends of Thorn Creek Woods to support the preserve and allow the Commission’s small budget to be used for staffing and dialing operations. The Capital Fund currently has $25,569.92 through generous donations large and small.

“As directors on the Friends of Thorn Creek Woods Board we strongly suggest that we make the Nature Center building our priority now since it is badly in need of repairs and painting. And since we have limited funds, we recommend foregoing the south bridge rebuilding for now,” said volunteer and Board Director Penny Chamberlain.