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Parklands foundation is a private, non-profit organization that has protected and preserved over 3200 acres of woodland along the Mackinaw River through Tazwell, Woodford, and McLean counties in central Illinois.  According to its website,

The mission of the ParkLands Foundation is to preserve, protect and ecologically restore historic natural lands in the middle and upper Mackinaw Valley watershed. These lands are dedicated primarily for preserving the biological diversity of native plans and wildlife, and secondarily for passive public recreation, environmental educational and scientific research.
Parklands Foundation

The Parklands holding I've frequented most, about ten miles from my home, is its largest holding, the Merwin nature preserve, acquired as nine individual tracts totaling about 725 acres [Map (pdf)].  The character of parts of the preserve have changed since I first started coming here twenty-five years ago.  More on that later.  For now, let's go into the woods on a beautiful, sunny, 80-degree October day.

Some foliage has not yet turned its fall color, but others are putting on their full display
An oak looming over the Mackinaw River
Ready for a breeze
The Mackinaw River is not large, but it is purported to be the lomgest river in Illinois that is still un-dammed along its full length.
A great day for a walk in the woods with the family.
Some wildflowers are just coming into bloom.
A shagbark hickory
Parklands is in the process of restoring some of its upland forests to a more open type of forest called "savanna", which was how it looked before we showed up:
The cutting of trees is part of a project to restore a type of forest, called savanna, which grew here prior to European settlement. Savannas were largely composed of oak and a few hickory trees that were widely spaced with prairie grasses, sedges and wildflowers growing beneath the trees. Over the years, our upland forests have become more dense, smothering out plant species that require sunny, open areas to thrive. Cutting out smaller trees and shrubs ensures that oak trees, which require sunny areas, will be able to reproduce in the future
FAQ:Why is ParkLands cutting so many trees at the Merwin Nature Preserve?
This gives an idea of the tree density in the un-restored,  overgrown sections of the forest.
An area being converted to savanna forest
Another section of savanna
A young couple enjoying a nice day in the nature preserve
                                                                     This one wants you to leave it alone.
An oak spreads its branches over the savanna.

Originally posted to dsteffen on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 07:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Photography, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, Pink Clubhouse, DKOMA, Team DFH, Community Spotlight, and Street Prophets .

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