Grant Funds Awarded for Environmental Learning Center
May 11, 2013: Governor Pat Quinn announced Illinois Department of Natural Resources grant awards for 45 Illinois park districts including a $400,000 matching grant for the Park District of Oak Park to develop an Environmental Learning Center at Austin Gardens. Austin Gardens is a 3.6 acre urban forest located adjacent to bustling commercial and historic districts within Oak Park. With these funds the Park District of Oak Park will construct a 2100 square foot multi-use “Environmental Learning Center” which will be host to children’s nature day camps, environmental education programs for adults and children and other community events. The facility will feature many energy and environmental conserving elements including ample use of natural light, a high efficiency HVAC system and a green roof which will run off to a rain garden feature. The project also includes development of a “discovery garden” with birding scopes, nature imprints, and native plantings and a social gathering area with game tables for group picnics. The park’s path system will be improved, interpretive signage will be installed and habitat enhancements will be made to the existing wildflower area in the north end of the park.
The Park District has been awarded approximately $3.5 million in IDNR grants to fund park improvement projects since 2007. Oak Park residents can look forward to the completion of the Austin Gardens Environmental Learning Center project in fall 2015.
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