Natural Areas


Our goal for these natural areas is to restore areas characteristic of Illinois's most diverse habitats. Restoration includes planting and seeding native plants, removing nuisance plants, and conducting prescribed burns to encourage healthy growth.

Natural areas are open sunrise to sunset. Naturalists are available, and classes are designed for all age groups and interests. Nature programs utilize these areas with school groups, special request programs, and the public.To inquire about programs and services, call the Anita Purves Nature Center at 217-384-4062. Help us maintain these natural areas by not collecting items, walking pets or cycling.

Why Natural Areas?
The Urbana Park District protects, restores and manages natural areas. Protection safeguards biodiversity, maintains ecosystem balance, preserves habitats, builds resilience to climate change, conserves natural resources, and maintains water quality. These green spaces absorb water and the plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide. They support and sustain essential services for critical wildlife systems.

The district manages these natural areas for wildlife diversity. Their beauty and diversity inspires us. Wildlife observations, hiking and other interaction with natural spaces improves one’s general heath. Natural spaces offers a variety of mental, physical and social benefits for humans. These include stress reduction, decreased depression and anxiety, faster healing, and moderating the effects of Attention Deficit Disorder. 

Why No Dogs?
Dogs – on leash or off – are a detriment to wildlife. Wild animals perceive dogs as predators. Dogs cause stress to wildlife causing them to stop their normal behavior like feeding or resting. Repeated stress causes long-term impacts on wildlife including reduced reproduction and growth and increased vulnerability to disease. Dog urine in wildlife habitats “marks” the territory, which can make it unsuitable for wildlife. Furthermore, dog scent repels wildlife even after the dogs are gone

Why No Bikes?
Bikes are an intrusion on wildlife habitats, and they disturb the peace and quiet that local natural areas offer to all who visit them. By natural area, the Urbana Park District refers to an officially designated area, set aside for posterity. These include Busey Woods in Crystal Lake Park, portions of Meadowbrook Park, Weaver Park, and the Perkins Rd site. The district allows passive recreation in natural areas such as walking, hiking, photography and birding. Much of the district’s natural areas are seasonally wet environments and the impact bike riding has on the trails is severe often making trails unusable for months.

Busey Woods

Busey Woods is a 59-acre bottomland Oak-Hickory forest. It is located at the north end of Crystal Lake Park with an entrance just west of the Anita Purves Nature Center. The C-U Optimist Club sponsors management of Busey Woods. This natural area is notable for its spring wildflower display, bird watching opportunities and a 1/3-mile elevated boardwalk.

Weaver Park

With the help of volunteers, the Urbana Park District is restoring a variety of ecosystems at this quietly emerging park. Located south of the intersection of Main Street and Smith Road, the 60-acres of Weaver Park contains:

  • 35 acres planted with prairie and native grasses
  • An award-winning watershed management wetland
  • A 5-acre woodland/savanna restoration
  • Parking for the Kickapoo Rail Trail

Spomer Prairie in Meadowbrook Prairie

Prairie was the dominant natural feature of Illinois before the settlers arrived. Since 1978, the Urbana Park District and countless volunteers have worked to re-create approximately 80 acres of Illinois native landscape. Visit Meadowbrook Park in south Urbana, along Windsor Road and Race Street, and explore and enjoy a part of Illinois’ natural history that has all but disappeared.

Perkins Road Wet Prairie

With the assistance of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation 2000 program, the district is restoring 35 acres behind the dog park. Once restored, the Perkins Road Wet Prairie will include prairie and wetland environments for wildlife observation, environmental education programs and recreation. For a sneak peek at this developing natural area, attend a "Connecting You to Nature" Hike.