I-80 RESTORATION PROJECT
Join Living Lands & Waters as we continue our I-80 Restoration Project! This has been a vision of Chad Pregracke, Living Lands & Waters’ (LL&W) President and Founder, for over 20 years. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), this is the largest land restoration project in IDOT history, totaling 28 acres. The project focuses on restoring two tracks of land into a native prairie. This highly visible property is situated where Interstate 80 crosses the Mississippi River in Illinois and can be viewed from the Illinois Welcome Center, which overlooks the beautiful Mississippi River Valley.
A 2016 tornado caused unsafe and unpleasant conditions to this area of Interstate 80. Phase 1 of the restoration project included removing dead trees, debris, and invasive species from the area.
Although the restoration project is still underway; Phase 2 included planting native trees and prairie to create a more natural environment.
How can I get involved?
The I-80 Restoration Project is looking for businesses and groups to help financially sponsor the project and provide volunteers for teambuilding work days on the property. Specifically, volunteer groups are needed to remove invasive species and to plant native trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers.
Why is this project important?
Nearly 200 years ago, Illinois used to be 60% prairie. Of the nearly 22 million acres of prairie that was in the state in the 1820’s, only .01% is left. This decrease in prairie has resulted in habitat loss for native animals such as bison, deer, birds and many more. Restoring this parcel of land to its native landscape will provide countless benefits to the local ecosystem and raise awareness among the public of this endangered ecosystem.
In addition, this 28-acre parcel is viewed by 40,000 motorists who cross the Mississippi River every day – it is either their first or their last impression of Illinois. In March of 2016, a tornado hit a large portion of the acreage, uprooting hundreds of trees and decreasing the aesthetics of this property. The State of Illinois doesn’t have the funding, staff or resources for the project and the cleanup work needed for this area would be unlikely to happen without our/your involvement.
Further, the Illinois Welcome Center is underutilized, having one of the lowest rates of visitors of any rest area in the state! LL&W believes that restoring this acreage to a native prairie and introducing select animals to the plot would dramatically increase the volume of visitors, creating a timeless and well-designed Welcome Center with the best view of the Mississippi River Valley.