The Knoch Knolls Park Nature Center took one more step toward becoming a reality Wednesday as parks officials gathered community input to incorporate into the design and engineering phase.
The park district intends to build a $3.8 million nature center in the 217 acre Knoch Knolls park within the next one to two years on the city's south side.
They say a nature center at Knoch Knolls Park would provide additional space for environmental classes, drop-in visits and as a home base for those enjoying the banks of the DuPage River.
Many of the dozens of neighboring residents who attended Wednesday night's open house at the Wigwam seemed to agree.
Ray Kieronski said he believes the park functions well and is shared well between the disc golfers, bicycle riders and others. He said the area could benefit from having an educational component.
"I'd much rather have this than another soccer field or baseball diamond. How many ball fields can you have in one town?" he asked. "Personally, I'm excited about the aspect of the nature center that could include exhibits highlighting the historical aspects of the park and what we can see out here."
Project Manager Peggy Pelkonen said she also incisions the nature center featuring a show and tell type exhibit where visitors to the woods could take a picture of animals and plants they see and upload them to the nature center to either share with other guests for amusement or to get answers about whatever they capture.
Resident Joe Sucheski said the plan is exactly what the far south side needs.
"It's exactly what we need. It appears to be a great plan," he said.
His thoughts are consistent with 2005 and 2009 surveys in which nature areas and nature centers were ranked high in terms of needed and desired park features by residents.
Park officials say they chose Knoch Knolls Park because the former farmstead is bordered by both the north and south branches of the DuPage River, and is the most ecologically varied area of the Naperville Park system. It is comprised of trails, woods, river and bluff pond, savanna remnants, planted prairie and more. Additionally, Knoch Knolls contains more than 120 species of native plants and area wildlife. These elements make it an excellent place for nature learning and exploration.
On any random visit to the park you can see various species including the American toad, the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher and the Northern Clearwater Crayfish.
Any feedback gathered during Wednesday's open house will be brought to the design and engineering phase before the project moves forward. The park district will also continue seeking state and federal grants to assist in the funding of the project.