Award money will help The Nature Institute purchase native trees, grasses and flowers to plant within the already created stone wall planters at the north entrance to Gordon Moore Park.
ALTON — A beautification grant awarded to The Nature Institute in Godfrey will be used to complete the improvement to the north entrance of Gordon Moore Park in Alton.
The Alton Community Service League gave $500 last month to assist in the project that will attract visitors to Heartland Prairie, which is managed by TNI.
The Alton Community Service League received 29 grant applications this year. In total, the group was able to give $11,000 to various local beautification projects.
In partnership with the city of Alton, TNI has actively managed the 60-acre Heartland Prairie project for more than 30 years. From the first planting by Sierra Club members in 1977 to current stewardship activities, the Heartland Prairie project continues to be a top priority of TNI and its dedicated volunteers.
Boasting more than 150 native prairie plant species and harboring a large variety of grassland-dependent birds, Heartland gives visitors a glimpse into the past. To date, TNI has built stone wall planters for each side of the entrance. The awarded money will be used to continue the process by adding more topsoil to plant native trees, grasses and flowers.
“We feel it is important to create a positive and inviting setting for the guests of Heartland Prairie,” said stewardship director Tim Schofield. He said it will provide “a welcomed entry point for River Bend citizens and out-of-state visitors alike.”
TNI will be providing opportunities for the public to come out to explore and learn about the Heartland Prairie. From now through October, “Heartland Prairie Walks” will give participants the chance for a guided tour through the restored natural area while identifying native plants, birds and insects. The walks are held at 5:30 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.
The next walk will be on Tuesday, May 27. All participants should wear comfortable shoes and bring water, binoculars and a plant identification book if available. Hikers will start with a discussion at the observation deck about the plants in the prairie’s newer sections until approximately 6 p.m.
Those fascinated in prairie restoration are invited to come early at 5 p.m. for a short, hands-on class explaining how to start and maintain a prairie. The class will focus on identifying native plants and eliminating invasive ones.
TNI is also looking for volunteers for the “Heartland Prairie Restoration Days,” which are held every first Saturday of the month through October. Those interested in helping to maintain the beauty of the restored prairie by removing invasive plants and shrubs should meet at the entrance to the prairie at 9 a.m. The work will go until noon, with a light lunch being served afterward.
The Heartland Prairie at Gordon Moore Park is owned by the city of Alton and is managed by TNI staff and volunteers through maintained trails, informative plant guides and active restoration activities, including invasive species control. The prairie and woodland areas are protected under a conservation easement and the land will remain undeveloped.
For information on “The Heartland Prairie Walks” and “Restoration Days” or other TNI events, call the main office at (618) 466-9930 or visit www.TheNatureInstitute.org.