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Tour of the Secret Prairie in downtown Champaign

June 29, 2009

If you ever wander the streets of downtown Champaign, with just the right kind of aimlessness, you may suddenly find yourself in a tiny forest, which opens up onto a tiny prairie, complete with wetland, glacial till, and authentic hobo markings.  This is the Pocket Prairie, which Dave Monk (a.k.a. The Prairie Monk) takes care of and uses as a demonstration of the ecosystem.

Dave came here from Australia decades ago to study the prairie ecosystem, only to find that it was rapidly being swallowed up by farming and development.  Today, less than 0.1 percent of original prairie remains.  Dave stresses that the sheer genetic variety found only on the prairie may very well contain future cures for cancers, as well as plants with the potential to be good biofuels.  The research will take years, as it does, and of course it is up to all of us to ensure the prairie is still around when we need it.

From neverending battles with landscaping racketeers and those who hire them, came the slogan “Grow it, don’t mow it!”  This spirit is reflected across Urbana, which has more un-traditional and wild-growing lawns than I have seen anywhere else.

At any rate, I helped Dave produce a virtual tour slideshow of the “Pocket Prairie” in the springtime, and here it is (original post):

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