PEORIA — Tucked away in the west side of Peoria along Kickapoo Creek Road, a privately-owned, 70-acre nature site is a “special place” for a group of nature enthusiasts.
With the permission of the owner Jim Connaughton, a not-for-profit group has been organizing hikes through the nature site known as Rocky Glen. That same group, Friends of Rocky Glen, has been trying to get the nature site that includes limestone cliffs, forests, rare vegetation and other features, into public protection for the past two years.
During a special public hearing that was held July 21 at Peoria City Hall, Friends of Rocky Glen and Peoria administrators discussed the possibility of spending federal funds that the City of Peoria has access to, for the purchase of the Rocky Glen property. The City of Peoria has had control of federal money from a LAWCON fund since the 1980s to use to purchase high quality natural areas, but has had trouble finding a suitable site. Friends of Rocky Glen hopes the City of Peoria will use those funds to purchase the Rocky Glen property. Connaughton has agreed to sell the Rocky Glen property to the City of Peoria for $200,000.
The Peoria City Council is expected to discuss the idea of spending the federal funds for the purchase of the Rocky Glen property and possibly vote on the purchase of the property, during a December 11 meeting.
“The final step will be a Peoria City Council discussion and possible vote on transferring of funds from a special, restricted account that’s partially controlled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,” said Friends of Rocky Glen President David Pittman. “It is subject to approval of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has already approved Rocky Glen as an appropriate parcel for the use of this fund.
“The city council’s vote — if they approve it — would be the last step. And then a check would be cut to the property owner and the property will be transferred to ownership of the City of Peoria. Hopefully once it’s moved into public protection anybody will be able to go there anytime and see it.”
If the City of Peoria purchases the property, Friends of Rocky Glen want the Peoria Park District to manage it.
“It’s my personal opinion that the Peoria Park District is the best eventual recipient of the property because they manage natural areas,” said Pittman. “The City of Peoria doesn’t have the staff and expertise to do that.”
Friends of Rocky Glen would like “minimal improvements” to be done to the nature site and “to keep it open as a public recreational area in its natural state,” said Pittman. They also want a parking lot for Rocky Glen to be built.
“Where that parking lot would be located is a decision that would need to be discussed and we hope to be a part of that discussion,” said Pittman.
A parking lot would allow elementary schools to conduct outdoor classes at Rocky Glen, said Pittman.
“It’s going to be a place that I think we’ll see a fair amount of use as an outdoor classroom by elementary schools, once we have a parking lot for a bus.
“We know that it’s going to be a big hit. It’s nice to have a place to go like that around Peoria.”
Friends of Rocky Glen are holding its next hike through Rocky Glen Dec. 8 at 10 a.m.
“We encourage everyone to come and see for themselves just what a special place this is,” said Pittman.
To learn more about Friends of Rocky Glen, visit friendsofrockyglen.org.