New prairie, wildlife exhibit planned for nature center in St. Charles
The Creek Bend Nature Center in St. Charles will likely be home to a new permanent, interactive exhibit on plants and wildlife in local tallgrass prairies.
The $200,000 exhibit would have an indoor and outdoor component. It would feature big and little bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass and common prairie forbs.
The exhibit would open in late summer/early fall of 2022. It would complete the museum space at the Creek Bend Nature Center, which is run by the Kane County Forest Preserve District. The nature center also has exhibits on pollinators, bison, rivers and woodlands.
An Illinois Department of Natural Resources grant would fund almost all of the expense to create the exhibit. The district's executive committee gave preliminary approval for the exhibit Thursday. The full forest district commission will vote on the project next Tuesday.
The tallest grasses would nearly touch the ceiling of the indoor exhibit, which will be painted sky blue. There would be lifelike white-tailed deer, coyote, a northern harrier, an eastern meadowlark and various butterflies in the indoor portion.
The plants and animals would be set against a painted mural backdrop with 3-D roots hanging down from the landscape.
The indoor exhibit would connect to an outdoor tunnel, which features a look at life on the prairie underground. It would have a simulated dirt ceiling with roots showing how prairie plants are specialized for their environment with the majority of their mass underground.
In the tunnel would be burrows with lifelike badgers, prairie vole, eastern chipmunks, eastern mole, deer mice, a groundhog, ants, mole cricket, wolf spider and earthworms. An accompanying microscope would provide up-close views of centipedes, millipedes, nematodes, earthworms, springtails, ants, mites, pseudo-scorpions and sow bugs.
The forest district is also putting $10,000 into a native bee hotel and prairie restoration at the site.