A $750,000 state museum grant announced Nov. 18 will be combined with existing Forest Preserve District of Will County funds to continue the process of converting Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon into a site with expanded and enhanced indoor and outdoor nature education and recreation opportunities.
Specific improvements will include: an outdoor bird feeding exhibit, exhibit room architectural improvements, permanent indoor exhibits, physical trail improvements, trail wayfinding markers, outdoor interpretive signs, artistic sculptures and building signage, pond deck program space, prairie shelter program space, outdoor tables and seating, and viewshed clearing in restoration areas.
“Overall, these improvements are intended to transform Four Rivers into a state-of-the-art, sophisticated nature center that is substantially more user friendly for the public and provides new educational and recreational opportunities,” said facility supervisor Chris Gutmann. “Improvements will also further enhance the facility’s successful rental offerings. All improvement plans are being viewed through the lens of inclusivity and multi-function to provide the maximum value to the public.”
Prior to January 2020, Four Rivers was open only for rentals and programs. As a result of actions by the Forest Preserve, the building is now open to the public Tuesday-Sunday and the conversion process of making it a hub for nature activities will continue with the museum grant funds as well as Forest Preserve funds.
Another $750,000 has been earmarked for Four Rivers renovation work from the Forest Preserve’s Capital Improvement Plan and $75,000 from the 2021 budget, for a total investment of more than $1.5 million. Inside the building, offices and storage areas are being relocated to provide for larger exhibit space, said Matt Novander, the Forest Preserve’s chief landscape architect. And outdoor improvements to the surrounding McKinley Woods preserve will allow for additional water access and programs and enhanced viewing areas and trail outings, he added.
“These improvements will lead to a true expansion of the visitor experience at Four Rivers and McKinley Woods,” Novander said.
The Four Rivers grant was one of 43 Illinois museum grants totaling $22.8 million that are being funded through Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois multi-year state capital program.
For more information on the Forest Preserve District of Will County, visit ReconnectWithNature.org.