We are proud to have cultivated and to maintain natural prairie areas in four of our parks:
Conditions permitting, we conduct prescribed burns for parts of the prairie areas each year. A prescribed burn is a technique for restoring prairie plant life that is native to the area. In order for burns to take place, the weather forecast must match favorable conditions that include low wind and precipitation.
We have chosen to conduct prescribed fires because they are important to restoring prairie life. Historically, prairies regularly experienced fire from both man-made and natural causes such as lightning. With regular burning, the native plant species of our region became fire tolerant. Today, fire is utilized as a restoration tool to help control invasive plant species and weeds, remove layers of old/dead plant material, return nutrients to the soil, and improve native seed germination rates. Prescribed burns help the native plants flourish while discouraging growth by invasive species.
There are many safety factors taken into consideration when doing a prescribed burn. Park District staff work closely with METCAD to coordinate with local public safety agencies to help ensure the safest burn possible. Staff often use a “back burning” technique to encourage slower fire spread. Two burn teams work in opposite directions made up of a large amount of staff will supervise the fire line until it is safely burned out. Staff members have safety equipment and hand radios to be in constant communication with each other throughout the burn. Affected sections of pathways near the burn area are closed to ensure public safety. Staff are stationed at each barricade to monitor the area and answer questions.
Prior to any burn, we receive an Open Burning Permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. If you have any questions, please contact our Natural Areas Coordinator, Mike.Davis@champaignparks.org or call 217-819-3851.