Urbana Park District

40 and Flying - Connecting You with Nature


Join the Urbana Park District as we celebrate the Anita Purves Nature Center’s 40th anniversary. To celebrate we are bringing back 40 programs and events from the past 40 years. Some of these are familiar programs that we still offer with a days-gone-by flare, while others are one-time programs that were a hit back in the day. All programs occur at the Anita Purves Nature Center, 1505 N Broadway, Urbana unless noted otherwise.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or sign up to receive our e-newsletter email NatureMailbox@urbanaparks.org to get access to our SECRET words throughout the year. Tell the secret words to the front desk staff when you come to any and all of our planned programs and enter each time for our 40th anniversary raffle prizes.

Anita Purves - A Passion for all Living Things


The Anita Purves Nature Center is but a small tribute to a spirited young woman who inspired both children and adults to share her enthusiasm for the kinship of all living things. The nature center and the programs and services offered seek to perpetuate Anita’s stewardship and love for nature and people.

Anita Parker was born on May 19, 1939, in Philadelphia. She was happiest when satisfying her curiosity about nature. Her involvement with nature was very personal. Anita married Alan C. Purves in 1960 and moved to Urbana in 1968. “Anita and I visited Busey Woods with our two sons,” said Alan, “We tried to find a little bit of unspoiled nature in Urbana.” Anita developed breast cancer in 1971. Despite her failing health, she attend the Busey Woods lease signing. Shortly after, Anita died of cancer on March 11, 1975.

During her time in Urbana, Anita was very active. As an original member of the Park District Advisory Committee, she ensured that the best parks and programs were offered. Anita played a role in the Thornburn Environmental Awareness Center, the district’s first environmental center. In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, she led schoolchildren on Busey Woods nature hikes. She dreamed of a place where schoolchildren could discover nature as part of their school education.

Anita was by nature very curious, not just about nature, but also about people. Anita had an unquenchable fascination with nature. It was a passion really, for exploring and observing the woods and prairie. (Ruth Wene in News Gazette, 1-27-94)

If you would like a full history on the Anita Purves Nature Center & Busey Woods, check out this timeline.


40th anniversary Programs & Events

Below is a brief look at all the programs and events planned for the entire year of 2019. Come celebrate with us!


Program or Event Date & Time Brief Description
Nature Center Pre-K Fridays (2016) Fridays, January 11-February 1, 9am-12pm

Kids age six and under and their families can drop by the nature center to discover self-guided activities just for little naturalists.

Magic Mixtures (1992) Saturday, January 19,   10-11:30am

Kids will experiment, create and discover using a variety of household materials alongside the Master Mixer.

Adults Only Owl Prowl (1991) Saturday, February 2, 7-9pm

Explore Busey Woods at night in search of owls with Illinois Natural History Survey Avian Specialist Tara Beveroth.

Winter School Tours (1983) Monday-Friday, February 4-8, Time TBA

Local schools visit Busey Woods and explore how animals survive winter.

The Great Backyard Bird Count (2006) Saturday, February 16, 9am-4pm

Record the birds you see through the windowed Wildlife Observation Room and during guided hikes.

Owl Prowl for Kids (1991) Saturday, February 23, 5-7pm

This program is a special opportunity for kids to explore Busey Woods at night in search of wild owls.

Nature Play Kids (2017) Fridays, March 1-April 12, 10-11am Bring your young one to the nature center for creative play time with guidance and additional supplies from a nature play facilitator.
Birding for Beginners (1996) Saturday, March 2, 9-11am

Learn how to use binoculars, spot and identify common local birds and discover a bit about each bird’s natural history.

Big Grove Storytelling Festival (2001) Saturday, March 9, 1-4pm

Back by popular demand, storytellers Kim Lehman, Kath Brinkmann, Kim Sheahan and Dan Keding.

Forest Preschool (2019) Monday-Friday, March 18-22, 8am-12pm

This pilot program, developed for children who have not yet attended kindergarten, takes place entirely outdoors no matter the weather!

Woodcock Walk (2011) Wednesday, March 20, 6:30-8pm

Discover the secret life of the bird with the upside-down brain during a guided twilight stroll.

Parent/Child Discovery (1994) Saturday, March 23,   10-11am

A naturalist will guide you and your child as you share a special time together hiking in Busey Woods while engaging in songs, role-play, and more.

Nature Photography (1980) Thursdays, April 3-May 1, 4-5pm

Students participating in the SPLASH program will work alongside a local photographer to capture moments in nature.

Birds, Binoculars & Beverages (2003) Sundays, April 7-May 12, 7:15-9:45am

After your walk, enjoy coffee, light snacks and conversation while you observe birds from the Wildlife Observation Room.

Eggtastic (2013) Saturday, April 13, 1-3pm

Create homemade dyes that will make your holiday eggs look like bird eggs.

Moon Walk (1982) Friday, April 19,        7:30-9pm

Listen for owls and other nocturnal creatures of the night. 

EarthCare Celebration (1990) Saturday, April 20, 1-4pm

Celebrate Earth Day as you meet Earth-friendly folks and engage with hands-on displays and activities for all ages.

Earth Day Celebration with Schools (2012) Monday, April 22, 9am-2pm

Area classrooms are invited to celebration of Earth Day the Anita Purves Nature Center through hands-on activities geared toward caring and appreciating the environment.

Arbor Day Celebration (1995) Friday, April 26, Time & Location TBA

Celebrate Arbor Day with the Urbana Park District and the City of Urbana a variety of tree-rific hands-on activities.

Salamander Meander (1993) Saturday, April 27, 2-3:30pm

Use nets, magnifiers and guides to investigate the bizarre and extraordinary life that lurks in Busey Woods’ seasonal ponds.



Program or Event Date & Time Brief Description
International Migratory Bird Day (2007) Saturday, May 11, 7-10am

Hike through Busey Woods for a fun morning with the birds. This is a great opportunity to see up-close how scientists catch, study and release wildlife.

Moon Walk (1982) Saturday, May 18, 8-9:30pm

Listen for owls and other nocturnal creatures of the night. 

Nature Center's Birthday Party (1979) Monday, June 3, 2-4pm

Stop by and check out all the center has to offer today. Enjoy some birthday cake while you are here!

Strawberry Jam (1989) Saturday, June 15, 4pm-Sunset

Enjoy musical performances by local musicians and taste fresh strawberries over ice cream (while supplies last). Blast from the past planned activities include hayrack rides, prairie tours, face painting, kite flying, rocket demonstrations and tethered hot air balloon rides.

Lunch Box Naturalists (1999) Wednesdays, June 19-July 17, 12-1pm

Meet up with a naturalist and explore nature in your neighborhood park. Watch Facebook and Twitter for the surprise location announcements.

Playing It Safe (2004) Friday, June 28, 9-11am

Nature Day Campers will enjoy a morning of fun, competitive, old-fashioned games.

Firefly Foray (1997) Friday, June 28,   7:45-9pm

Learn about these luminescent insects of the night.

What a Catch (2010) Saturday, July 6,  9am-12pm

Bring your own fishing pole and tackle, or make a cane pole to keep, and explore the summer fun of fishing.

Nature Discovery Packs (2008) July 7-19

Explore area parks using a free Nature Discovery Pack. Take a long a special backpack visitor to take pictures with during your exploration.

Sun Catchers: Solar Devices (1984) Saturday, July 20, 1-2:30pm

Learn to make homemade solar ovens, driers and more, and get some ideas for longer-term projects you can do at home.

Bat Mania (2000) Friday, July 26,    7:30-9pm

Discover more about these misunderstood creatures of the night and the many ways they benefit humans.

Bike, Hike and Swim Day (1985) Friday, July 26,    9am-2pm

All district campers age 6 and up will put their foot to the pedal, trail and water during this fun district ALL camp event.

Wild Child Survival Camp (2018) Monday-Friday, August 5-9, 7:30am-5:30pm

In this adventure-based outdoor camp, your child will learn skills that promote independence and critical thinking such as building campfires and debris shelters, orienteering, identifying plants and animals, and more.

Stories at Sunset (2002) Friday, August 9, 7:30-9pm

Listen to stories around a cozy fire and enjoy the timeless tradition of roasting marshmallows!



Program or Event Date & Time Brief Description
Meadowbrook School Tours (1987) Monday-Friday, September 3-20,     Time TBA

Students will visit Meadowbrook Park’s Spomer Prairie for hands-on learning experiences geared towards Illinois prairie plants and the animals that inhabit the area.

Moon Walk (1982) Thursday, September 19, 7-8:30pm

Listen for owls and other nocturnal creatures of the night. 

Take a Child Outside Week (2011) September 20-28, Location & Times TBA

Check out great ways to get outdoors throughout the park district.

BioBlitz: Citizen Scientists with Urbana Schools (2005) Monday-Thursday, September 23-26, Times TBA

Students will participate in hands on activities, learn about the significance of biodiversity, and discover ways to continue growing as citizen scientists!

BioBlitz (2005) Friday & Saturday, September 27 & 28, 12pm-12pm

This BioBlitz will bring together scientists in a race against time to see how many species they can count in a 24-hour biological survey of Busey Woods.

Wild Encounters (2014) Saturday, October 26, 2-3pm

Meet the nature center animals up-close and discover what these animal ambassadors have to teach us about living with wildlife.

America Recycles Day: 40 Years Later (1981, 1988, 2009) Saturday, November 16, 1-4pm

Explore old and new ways to recycle household waste. Learn what has changed and what are tried and true recycling methods.

Winter Solstice Prairie Grove Holiday (1986 & 2015) Saturday, December 21, 4-7pm

Share the magic of an old-fashioned, homespun holiday season in this twilight event on the shortest day of the year. Choose from a variety of holiday activities including a “Kids Only” craft shop, ornament-making, a winter walk an trimming a tree for wildlife.


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