UI students use spring break to spruce up Allerton Park

UI students use spring break to spruce up Allerton Park

MONTICELLO - Five days into her spring break week, Lindsay Reinhardt has sore muscles and poison ivy.

She's been clearing brush and leaves from woods and gardens for several days, but she's not complaining. She was looking for something active to do during her break.

?This was an opportunity for me to be outside,? said Reinhardt, a sophomore from New York.

She is one of 13 University of Illinois students who are spending their spring break week at Allerton Park near Monticello. The park offered an alternative spring break activity for the first time this year. The students are staying at Allerton House and volunteering their time to spruce up the park.

They've been clearing brush from wooded areas around the conference center and visitors center, uncovering rose bushes, planting flowers and repairing the latticework along the walls surrounding the sunken garden.

?They've been able to get things done that we may not have been able to do,? said Kim Petzing, environmental program coordinator at the park.

Several students said they often come to the park to visit and thought volunteering during their spring break would be a good way to give something back.

?We came out here a lot when I was a kid, and I came out here in high school with my friends,? said Beth Ferrell, who grew up in Urbana and is a junior at the UI. ?I enjoy this place a lot. It was nice for me to be able to come out here and help it out a little bit.?

?This is one of my favorite places to come when I get stressed out from school,? said Sarah Viall, a junior from Manteno. ?I come out here and take a walk and forget everything. I thought I could help out with the upkeep of the park since I come out here as much as I can.?

The students say they have enjoyed the work. Ashlea Brandenburg, a freshman from Atwood, was having so much fun using a staple gun to put up latticework, another student nicknamed her ?Staplelina.?

But the week hasn't been all work for the students.

They quit in the late afternoon and have time to themselves to hike and enjoy the park. And there are evening activities, including a movie night, a pizza party, and a night hike with stargazing, a campfire, ghost stories and s'mores.

They were thrilled to be staying in Allerton House, and they raved about the food.

?The food is out of this world,? Reinhardt said. ?I'm not going to be able to go back to the dorms after this.?

Several said they have enjoyed meeting people from other parts of campus they wouldn't ordinarily get to know.

The students at Allerton include natives of Brazil, South Africa and China.

Allerton Park officials said they were looking for ways to get students more involved at the park when they offered the alternative spring break week.

?We want them to feel a real sense of ownership in Allerton and let them relate to their fellow students what a resource Allerton is for the student body,? said Jim Gortner, the conference center manager.

To that end, Allerton Park will offer five paid internships this summer.

Students will work on the diversified farm, do horticultural maintenance in the gardens, map trails and select places for nature interpretation, and work on a project to make the courtyard at the visitors center more accessible.

You can reach Jodi Heckel at 351-5216 or by e-mail at jheckel@news-gazette.com.

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