Take a nature walk. Revive your spirit.

Step off the pavement into woodlands, wetlands, prairies and peace.

click to enlarge Take a nature walk.  Revive your spirit.
Photo credit, Jubilee Farm.
One of many benches inviting rest and relaxation at Jubilee Farm.

Two area walking paths offer gentle exercise, natural beauty and the gift of quiet reflection. Visit Jubilee Farm and Lincoln Memorial Garden for re-creation and peace.

Jubilee Farm — Center for Ecology and Spirituality
6760 Old Jacksonville Road, approximately four miles west of Veterans Parkway
Map available online.
Free to visit. Please call ahead.
Closed Mondays.

Your second visit to Jubilee Farm will be more predictable. The pond and labyrinth are this way, the woods are that way, Creative Arts Center, the prairie ... and so forth. But the first visit is an experience of wonder and discovery. Every vista offers beauty, every breath calms. Watch the sky change. See what's growing in the organic gardens. Visit with the alpacas and llama. And, above all, listen. The air is filled with countless songs and calls of nesting and migrating birds. Settle into the serenity, and then take a walk.

Sister Sharon Zayac, the Dominican Sisters, and a team of staff and volunteers care for the land, flora and fauna. "We think of Jubilee Farm as a sanctuary, certainly for wildlife and the migrating birds who travel between Central and South America, and Canada, and stop here to rest," says Zayac. Foxes, deer, coyotes, ducks, geese, frogs, turtles, and more species, all make their homes in the wetland, prairie and woods of the 164 acres. Visitors will likely see some of the nature community residents on the miles of mowed and mulched trails. Benches along the way offer stops for rest, reflection and birdwatching.

Summer views include blooming native plants, and many butterfly and bird pollinators. The stewardship of the farm includes eliminating invasive species, converting lawns to permaculture prairie and gardens, and helping the land restore itself, says Zayac. The vision statement of the farm affirms this goal. "Jubilee Farm seeks to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the Earth community and to share the gift of the land. Our diverse ministries call us all to live simply and sustainably."

click to enlarge Take a nature walk.  Revive your spirit.
Photo credit, DiAnne Crown
Seeger (llama) and Corbe (alpaca), enjoying life at Jubilee Farm.

"We encourage visitors to go off on a 'soundscape,'" Zayac says. "Turn off technology, don't speak to each other, just listen for the sounds of nature and be moved. It's one of the things visitors most remember, including children."

Springfield resident Grace Norris began visiting and volunteering at Jubilee Farm several years ago and regularly walks the trails and labyrinth. "It's everything you want. There are prairie, wetland and woodland habitats, with well-manicured trails. Walking the trails brings me closer to the Lord, and there's a side benefit of getting exercise in a quiet, peaceful, beautiful place. It's a safe place even for a woman alone."

To enjoy the peace and energy of the land at Jubilee Farm, drive west from Springfield on Old Jacksonville Road. The entrance is marked with a sign on the south side of the road just about four miles out. Please call to confirm open hours the day of your visit, and stop in at the office when you arrive.

Lincoln Memorial Garden and Nature Center
2301 East Lake Shore Drive, Springfield
Free to visit. The Garden is open dawn to dusk. Visit the web for Tuesday through Sunday Nature Center and Gift Shop hours. Map available online.

The 100 acres of woodlands and prairies of Lincoln Memorial Garden welcome visitors to stroll tended paths, enjoy seasonal changes of the native plants and trees, watch Lake Springfield lap the bank of the garden, and see resident and visiting birds feeding and flying overhead in a landscape as Abraham Lincoln would have known it. Gardener Marissa Jones describes what's old, and what's new, in the garden.

The trails

"We have approximately six miles of trails," Jones begins. "There are two areas of the garden with trails – the main woodland area, which includes the historic, original 63 acres of Lincoln Memorial Garden's native trees and plants, and 25 acres of tall grass prairie. The woodland trails are wood-chipped or grass. Trails in the Ostermeier Prairie Center feature gravel paths that wind through restored native prairie." Visitors are welcome to use the separate parking lot when visiting the Ostermeier Prairie Center but it is accessible by trail through the historic woodland.

"One special trail," says Jones, "is our Accessibility Trail – a 150-yard, tranquil pathway through the historic garden's woodlands. A wheelchair is available to visitors if needed." Along the path, the new Children's Storywalk partnership with Lincoln Library highlights key themes of nature, women in STEM, and climate change.

What you'll see in the summer

Wildlife is an attraction in the summer. "Early June through July, you'll likely see deer fawns running through the garden (Please don't disturb or feed.), litters of raccoons peering out from dead tree nooks, and birds in residence, including eagles."

One of the most pleasing aspects of the historic garden is architect Jen Jensen's curvilinear design. Without straight lines and corners along garden trails planted with trees and native plants from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky where Lincoln resided, Jensen created a little mystery around every bend. Look for stately oak trees, maples and hawthorns, which were some of Jensen's favorites, as well as purple coneflowers, Joe Pye weed, and spiderwort.


The hardscape

Returning visitors to the garden will see familiar historic council rings, more than 75 now refurbished benches, and restored bridges. But this summer, visitors will also enjoy the new Children's Woodland Garden. "It's an immersive playscape," says Jones, "which encourages children's involvement in nature through educational play." When complete, the playscape will feature climbing structures made of natural materials, a simulated stream, water log tunnel, a third garden troll, and a canopy and deck for shaded viewing.


Short visit or longer stay?

Yes! Whether it's for a noon-hour break or a quiet, early-morning hike, rejuvenating exercise, or creative inspiration, "Come out and enjoy the serene beauty the garden has to offer," says Jones. "There is something here for everyone."

DiAnne Crown has watched nesting and migrating birds here and near almost as long as she has contributed to Illinois Times – 36 years and counting.

DiAnne Crown

DiAnne Crown is a longtime freelance writer based in Springfield and former editor of Springfield Parent Magazine.

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