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Nature Preserve serves more than science majors

September 16, 2011

Joe Florio/The Courier - The Le Seur Nature Preserve is located behind the baseball field at Peacock Athletic Complex. Stretching across 17 acres of land, the nature preserve is home to multiple types of animals and vegetation.

Everyone needs an exit strategy, an escape route, a hiding place, their own “Narnia,” if you will. Contrary to popular belief, Monmouth is more than just Farm Land, Maple City and the home of the Fighting Scots. There are many hidden gems in this tiny town and I’m about to fill you in on one of the greatest escapes right here in our own back cornfield.

After a full week of studying, meetings, and other brain boggling activities, one’s mind tends to enter autopilot as you check out of the captain’s seat. In this moment of desperation, it is crucial to set the brain free which can be accomplished through something as simple as a walk in the woods. This, my fellow Scots, is where the secret getaway comes into play.

Although I had heard about the LeSeur Nature Preserve before, it was not until I visited the trail myself that I understood its awesomeness. Located on the right side of the parking lot at the Peacock Athletic Complex, most visitors are probably unaware of the trails existence. Originally a present of 1942 MC graduates, William Le Seur and Arlene Snow Le Seur, the preserve was established with a couple of goals in mind. The former, being to restore and maintain natural diversity of plant and animal that were native to the land before the Europeans moved in, while the latter hoped to function as a research tool for both Monmouth College and the community itself.        

Popular supporters of their Alma Matter, the Le Seurs were especially dedicated towards donating to the science department. As Senior Vice President for Lubrizol Corporation and medical technologist and genetic researcher, Mr. and Mrs. Le Seur’s gift of such a resource for scientific studies, was quite fitting. Since their passing, the preserve has been mostly sustained by the federal Recreational Trails Program Grant which was administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

From an outsider’s perspective, it does not seem as though the preserve is all that spacious. However, once one passes through the opening of the trail, and ventures further out into the woodlands, they comprehend the magnitude of the preserve’s diversity. Tromping down the beaten path, my destination was unknown. Although there were no “This Way” signs or maps, the path resembled most other public trails with informational stands describing specific plants and animals that are native to the land. I suppose no matter how far one travels from school, lessons are always waiting to be learned around the corner. Of course, the most popular plant of all, the corn stalk, was an abundant site along the path. However, examining the amber waves of grain within the walk appeared more glorious than from the window of my Honda. What was most surprising about the path was how I appeared to be the only passenger on the trail. Other than another runner, my solo saunter was entirely secluded. Despite the occasional cheering from the baseball field, my 30 minutes spent on the preserve were a new kind of peaceful.

Officially established in 1997, the property expands to a full 17 acres of varied land. On the eastern perimeter lays the floodplain woodlands and prairie grass which transitions into Oak Savanna, followed by a riparian zone and pine plantation that head towards Markham Creek. Towards the end of the path, one descends from the prairie across a stream ultimately revisiting the plot. What’s most interesting about this local treasure is the way it was molded by the hands of Mother Nature. Many eons ago, glacial movement in the Midwest produced the rich soil we now use for the baseball and soccer fields that currently neighbor the preserve. Before the land was developed by Europeans, the landscape was half forest and half prairie with forest bordering rivers and streams while higher levels of land were inhabited solely by prairie grass. National Geographic, eat your heart out.

What is most magnificent about this preserve is that whether you’re exploring for research purposes or in need of a brain break,this is one mental getaway that can be booked by anyone at any time, no cash required.

 

Jane Simkins
Features Editor

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One Response to Nature Preserve serves more than science majors

  1. Anne Sienkewicz

    September 21, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I just found out from your mother that you’re at Monmouth College. I had already read and enjoyed this essay. The Nature Preserve is a lovely place for a walk, just to feel the sunshine and smell the grasses. I can see things are going really well for you. Congratulations!