Why a barn?
We chose the barn because it was a beautiful and unique
structure with a lot of open space and a wonderful history. Our motto
at the Bourbonnais Township Park District is preserving the past and enriching
the future. Another reason we chose a barn is it was better for the environment.
Using recycled barn siding, timber frame and rafters helped the park district
promote reuse and recycling practices. Even the cabinets in the Multipurpose
room were made using recycled wood.
Where did the barn come from?
The barn was originally located in Scotch Grove, Iowa and belonged to
the Folkers family. It was donated to the park district, deconstructed
timber by timber, loaded on a flatbed truck and reconstructed on Whispering
Willows Park in Kankakee, Illinois.
Why didn't you get a more local barn?
We were drawn to the unique construction of this particular barn and
the history behind it. The mortis
and tenum joints and the large timbers that were used to make the frame
are rare and not used in barns constructed later in the century. The
barn structure was also in exceptional condition for it's age.
How much did the barn cost?
The barn itself was free as it was donated by Ms. Trevia Smith after
she discovered that the park district was interested in turning it into
a nature center. The Bourbonnais Township Park District paid for a new
roof, insulation, lighting, restrooms, a septic system, well, Geothermal
heating systems, and other amenities.
What is a Geothermal Heating system?
A Geothermal heating system uses the heat from the ground to help heat
the building in the colder months. The system uses a liquid that is
piped underground outside the building. The liquid absorbs heat still
trapped underground even in the coldest days of winter. The liquid is
then fed into the building where the heat is transferred to a unit
that converts the heat energy from the liquid to the air. The heated
air is then used in conjunction with an electric system that feeds warm
air into the building. The Geothermal unit doesn't heat the building
alone, but it does help conserve energy.
What is there to do in the nature center?
There are many hands on exhibits in the Willowhaven Nature Center.
Everyone is encouraged to get their hands on the antlers, seeds, tracks
and pelts located on the discovery tables. You can view our exhibits
featuring wetlands, wildflowers and native Illinois animals. We have
a Discovery Lab table set up with real working microscopes and slides
including pond life, insects and other microscopic animals. Younger
visitors can enjoy the reading nook and puppet play area. We also have
live animals that are commonly found in the park including native fish,
salamanders and turtles.
What is there to do in the park?
There is 1 mile of crushed limestone hiking and biking trails. The trails
circle two ponds that contain a wide variety of wildlife including fish,
frogs, turtles, waterfowl, coyote and deer. Catch and release fishing is allowed on select days. While the western portion
of the park is being leased to a local farmer, the 70 acres in the east
half of the park has areas of wetlands and prairies for people to explore.
Why is there a windmill in the park?
The park was once farmland. The previous owner, Mr. Smietanski, created
the ponds and wetlands so he could attract wildlife. The windmill was
once used to regulate water levels in the ponds. If the water got too
low, the windmill was hooked up to a well pump and the mill would pump
water back the ponds.
The old windmill by the back pond is not to be confused with the new Wind Turbine located next to the Nature Center. The wind turbine creates power to the nature center and was erected in 2011 thanks in part to a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation. The turbine was installed by Sky Yield Renewable Energy out of Kankakee, IL.
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