HOMER LAKE – Coming soon to a forest preserve near you – a wetlands.
The Champaign County Forest Preserve District is the only Midwestern agency to win a Five Star Restoration Challenge Grant from the National Association of Counties.
The grant amounts to $9,700, about a third of the total cost of the project, said Dan Olson, the forest preserve's natural resources director.
Project partners include Champaign County Natural Resources Conservation Service, Grand Prairie Friends, Prairie Grove Volunteers and East Central Illinois Master Naturalists.
A site in the middle meadow of Homer Lake Forest Preserve, 15 miles southeast of Urbana, is already being prepared.
The 1.5 acre wetland is intended to increase biodiversity, especially migratory birds, wading birds and amphibians and reptiles, and improve water quality.
As a byproduct, it will take care of a problem at Homer Lake.
"That area is covered with invasive and exotic plants," Olson said.
The grant will cover seeding the area with native and prairie species which are better-suited to the environment, he added.
The grant specifies that the forest preserve district has a year to complete the project. Olson said the wetlands will be done on time.
Forest preserve workers will construct a berm. They'll also remove old agricultural tiles. The area is well-suited for its purpose, he said, with natural contours and "pothole" or ephemeral patches of wetlands already.
It's also near a parking lot so visitors won't have much of a hike to do their bird-watching, he said.
The Five Star Partnership includes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Wildlife Habitat Council, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds and new corporate sponsor Southern Company.
Altogether, there are $116,540 in grants to support 10 projects across the country.