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A Door, A Floor & So Much More: Russell Woods To Get New Field Station

Peggy Doty
The river rocks are outside the "door to nowhere."

The DeKalb County Community Foundation recently approved a $5000 grant for the DeKalb County Forest Preserves. That means Russell Woods Forest Preserve is getting a new field station. Peggy Doty has been an educator with the University of Illinois Extension energy and environmental stewardship team for 21 years. She wrote the grant proposal specifically for RWFP.

"In the summer, we have a lot of mosquitoes," she said. "We're right on the river, and I get children who come to summer camp, and we get annihilated sometimes."

"We needed an open air space," Doty explained, "where we could feel like we are a part of nature and can continue to do our activities and studies without putting our children at risk for West Nile and the different things that could come from that."

Credit Peggy Doty
The "door to nowhere" will soon open to the new field station classroom.

Doty also said the new field station will utilize a door that they have had to keep hidden, albeit in plain sight, and locked for safety reasons.

"This place was built with doors we don't use because kids could go in an out of different places," said Doty.

The door has been cleverly blocked off and used as a bulletin board. Once the field station is built, the door will open into it.

The new station will have three screened sides.  The fourth side will be the building's wall with the "bulletin board door."

Doty said, "Our door always went to nowhere and I would stand there and go, 'Where does this need to go?' And this is what I came up with." 

Doty said the station will be very adaptable. "It will be a place where we bring examples of nature into studies -- and have field guides and microscopes; and our nets will hang out there." 

The field station will encourage kids who are interested in science to get a feel for field work. It also will provide kids the opportunity to be outside when it's raining.

"Kids today don't come with raincoats because it's assumed if it's raining, kids won't go out." The field station, she said, will give the kids the opportunity to get even dirtier and even muddier.

And it will have a concrete floor. "If it gets muddy," she said, "we can rinse it off."

It will also be available for rentals. Doty called it "a nice, healthy space for a birthday party" and said it could also work as a gathering place for meetings or receptions.

"We are a little rustic, we're definitely not the Shedd Aquarium, but we have Wi-Fi. We have the ability for you to have a full-fledged meeting."

Of course, with Governor J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order in place, it is unknown when the field station will be operational. The Preserve's Natural Resource Education Center, shelter houses, toilets, and campgrounds are closed until further notice.

Russell Woods Forest Preserve is one of DeKalb County's 22 forest preserves. All forest preserve trails, picnic areas, and conservation areas are open from sunrise to sunset.

Doty said, "Utilize your forest preserves but remember to handle them gently" and reminds the public to:

  • Stay on the trails
  • Pick up your litter
  • Be thoughtful of others
  • Keep all pets on a leash

"We may have 22 forest preserves but it's a fraction of the overall space," she said. "They are very precious conservation spaces. Treat them with care."

The DeKalb County Community Foundation is an underwriter of WNIJ.