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.


Dark Sky Trail and Amenities

Four years ago Middle Fork River Forest Preserve was designated an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association due to its exceptionally high quality starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, educational, and cultural heritage, as well as its public enjoyment. At the time it was one of 72 parks worldwide to hold that designation and the only one in Illinois.

Now, it’s still the only Dark Sky Park in Illinois, and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD) is making improvements that will enhance the dark sky viewing experience in the preserve. CCFPD received an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in September 2022 to support the construction of a dark sky trail and supporting amenities at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve.

The trail will improve accessibility at Middle Fork by providing new, ADA-compliant campsites, paved trails, and accessible seating. The existing campground at Middle Fork has been a popular destination. Nearly every weekend, all sites are fully booked.

The project will not only appeal to dark sky viewers, but will be popular among regular patrons of the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. The trail will loop throughthe tall grass prairie at the preserve offering new educational and recreational opportunities. The nature playground will be a draw for campers and families visiting the preserve and the expanded campground

will alleviate our peak demand issues and prevent the District from turning away campers. The Forest Preserve Friends Foundation needs donations to help accomplish this goal. On Giving Tuesday, November 29, we will be raising funds for the construction of the Dark Sky Trail.

Gifts from visitors like you have made so many projects a reality – the new roof on the Covered Bridge, the Willow Pond renovation, and numerous prairie restoration efforts.

Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden to get a New Greenhouse

In 2023, CCFPD will be starting a new and exciting project at the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, the Discovery Garden Greenhouse. The space will feature improved garden areas and an indoor greenhouse conservatory for both public strolling and scheduled programs.
The existing greenhouse shows its age at over 50 years old. Staff see this project as an opportunity to replace an old, inefficient building with something more engaging and energy efficient. One of the goals for the new design is to provide a more interactive educational space where people can learn about the natural world both on their own time and through the many classes and
activities the District offers. Unlike the existing facility, the new greenhouse will be fully ADA-accessible and have conveniently located public restrooms.
The project will also support the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden with added greenhouse production space. Staff are excited by how the new design will help unify the Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden, and Discovery Garden into a more connected and vibrant environment. Construction is expected to start in early 2023.

Legacy Giving

Are you looking for ways to support the Champaign County Forest Preserve District along with its facilities, programs, goals, and missions during your lifetime or as a lasting legacy? Then consider the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation as a means of satisfying this lifetime charitable objective or as a legacy under your estate plan.

Lifetime gifts to the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation can be made in a variety of forms including cash, appreciated securities, and real estate. These types of gifts can provide you with financial benefit in the form of income tax deductions and reduction of capital gains tax all while benefiting the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.

Legacy gifts of cash, securities, and real estate can also be made to the Champaign County Forest Preserve Friends Foundation by naming the Foundation as a beneficiary under a Will or Trust. This allows you to continue your current lifestyle through the use of these assets during your lifetime together with the flexibility to change your plans as necessary due to life changes, all while ultimately benefiting the Champaign County Forest Preserve District after your death. Estate tax benefits may also be obtained by such legacy gifts.

 A lifetime and legacy gift might also include establishing a Charitable Remainder Trust.  Such a trust can provide regular payments for yourself, your spouse, or a loved one for life and benefit the Champaign County Forest Preserve Friends Foundation as the beneficiary of the Trust after death. Charitable Remainder Trusts can provide income tax deductions, can eliminate capital gains tax on lifetime gifts, and provide estate tax savings at death.

Other simple forms of assets and means to consider in leaving a legacy to the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation might include naming the Foundation as beneficiary of retirement plan assets, life insurance, bank accounts, or investment accounts. Naming the Foundation as direct beneficiary of retirement plan assets provides a way of transferring assets to the Foundation on a tax-free basis.

 If you are interested in discussing these ideas with us, please contact [email protected] or your personal legal or financial advisor.

Three Rivers Society

In January, the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation is launching the Three Rivers Society. The Three Rivers Society is a giving society created to protect and preserve Champaign County’s natural and cultural resources via a strong, proud, and generous group of people that consistently donate funds dedicated to our mission. Donors receive membership with an annual unrestricted gift of $1,000 or more. Members will receive access to a special biannual newsletter, invitations to special members’ only events, advanced notice of district events and project openings, and will be featured in a special category in our yearly donor recognition in our Leaflet. For more information, contact Ryan Anderson at [email protected]

Board Members

  • Will Timmons, Chairman
  • Matt Hausman, Vice President 
  • Roger Laramee, Treasurer
  • Jennifer Vallowe, Secretary
  • Rod Beyers
  • Carter Billingsley
  • Peg Busch
  • Nancy Guebelle
  • Joe Lamb
  • Brendan McGinty
  • Merry Mitchell
  • Dan Noel
  • Rachel Smith-Bolton
  • Mary Ellen Wuellner
  • Robert Espeseth, board member emeritus
  • Sarah Livesay, CCFPD Board Liaison
  • Lorrie Pearson, Executive Director CCFPD