The Forest Preserve Friends Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation organized for charitable and educational purposes. The Foundation supports the facilities, programs, services, goals and mission of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. In turn, it generates grant support and collaborative relationships with other agencies.

Your contributions to the Foundation support the projects and activities at the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. Whether helping to acquire land, maintain natural and recreational areas, provide educational experiences, or preserve the County's natural and cultural resources, your gift will touch the lives of generations to come.

2018 Initiatives

Dark Sky Park at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve

​Many of  us enjoy the luxury of being outside in the depths of night. The stars fascinate us and the deep darkness where those stars appear is even more intriguing. The night sky is also critical for many animals who need the cover of darkness to avoid predators, find food, and breed.

But how can one person preserve the beauty of the night sky? The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a non-profit founded in 1988 has a way to do it, and it can be done in every community including ours right here in Champaign County. This organization is dedicated to protecting the night skies for present and future generations. IDA’s mission and our mission at the Friends Foundation share a common theme. We preserve the land. They preserve the night skies. But WE can do that too. The Forest Preserve District’s Citizens Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society, is seeking designation of Middle Fork River Forest Preserve, in the darkest corner of the county, as Illinois’ first Dark Sky Park. This is an exciting project and one that can involve and benefit thousands of people.

Starry, Starry Night?

Over the years, an increase in artificial light has created a light dome over most American cities. So, are we ready to take back the darkness? Already, starwatch events are held throughout the year at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve, so the public can experience a star-filled sky that is imperceptible near the city.

Making it Happen

There are a number of things that need to be accomplished to get this designation, but it will be well worth our effort and our dollars to complete this project. Boulevard and parkway lights must be changed from the existing globe lights to fully shielded models Applications have to be filed, and funds need to be raised to take care of the details.

The Foundation cares about preserving the land, but also preserving the skies, and that is why we are involved, and ask you to be part of creating this Dark Sky Park. With your help, we can achieve designation in 2018. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to complete this project and tell everyone in Illinois about this special park. You can make a gift now to start the ball rolling. Simply choose the Dark Sky designation when you make your annual gift. It will do a world of good for everyone and make you feel good too. In this case, the sky is NOT limiting us, but is preserving a natural wonder for generations to come.

More Trail to Come!

From what we can tell, you are as excited as we are to have the Kickapoo Rail Trail open! Trail counters indicate that about 290 of you walked, ran, or rode on the trail each day throughout our warm fall season. We know that traffic on the trail will lighten as the temperature falls, but the work won’t stop as we look ahead to Phase Two.

We’ve gotten your feedback. You want benches, bike racks, and signs that tell you where to find ice cream and restrooms. And you want more trail. We do too. With your help, these things will come in 2018. Your gift to the KRT will add user amenities and will continue construction work on Champaign County’s Phase Two. You can also designate your gift to the trail efforts in Vermilion County by adding a note in the comment field on the online donation page.

See you on the KRT!

Habitat Restoration


At the Forest Preserve District, our goal for managing natural areas is to create biologically diverse habitat that is as close as possible in form and function to the landscape that would have been found in Champaign County prior to large scale human settlement.


Restoring native woodlands, prairies, savannas, and wetlands can take several years, and it starts by removing pesky invasive species, planting native grasses and wildflowers, and using a powerful ecological force – fire. This process results in a healthier ecosystem, increases the beauty of trails, and provides refuge for the many native plants and animals that call the Grand Prairie home.


The Natural Resources staff has big goals for 2018. With your support, restoration work can begin at Middle Fork’s Point Pleasant Wetland so that it once again can play host to a variety of migrating and resident waterfowl. Your funds will help battle invasive, non-native, bush honeysuckle that threatens Sangamon River Forest Preserve’s grand oak savannas. And additional prairie and shrubland can be restored at Buffalo Trace in Lake of the Woods.

We encourage you to visit your Champaign County Forest Preserves to see ecological restoration in action, and thank you for your gift in support of nature!

Donate now

Donate Online

Donate to the Pt. Pleasant Triple Match

By Mail

Click here for a printable form (133kb pdf)

By Phone

(217) 586-3360

Board Members

  • Meredith Mills, Treasurer
  • Bob Espeseth, Secretary
  • Joe Lamb, Vice President
  • Dan Noel, President
  • Rod Beyers
  • Peg Busch
  • Roger Laramee
  • Sarah Livesay
  • Will Timmons
  • Jennifer Vallowe
  • Mary Ellen Wuellner, Executive Director CCFPD