The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has a vision for Kankakee Sands in Newton County. It includes a new Welcome Center, the first of a series of improvements designed to enhance the visitor experience at this popular preserve.
Staff from the NiSource Charitable Foundation/NIPSCO visited Kankakee Sands today to present TNC with a donation to kick off the improvements. Specifically, their support—the first gift received for the improvements—will help fund a new bison viewing platform at the new Welcome Center. TNC’s bison herd has nearly a thousand acres to roam, which often means they’re not visible from the existing viewing area.
The new viewing platform will allow visitors to have an elevated view of the bison in their pasture. Additionally, spotting scopes will be mounted on the platform to allow visitors to view them when they are distant.
The platform will also allow visitors to be privy to the other wildlife of this magnificent restoration site, such as migrating grassland birds in the fall, short-eared owls in the winter and wetland birds in the spring.
“The NiSource Charitable Foundation’s mission is to help create strong and sustainable communities where NiSource employees and customers live and work,” said Kelly Carmichael, vice president of environmental policy and sustainability for NiSource. “The Foundation seeks opportunities to provide funding and encourage volunteer support for non-profit organizations in several areas, the environment being one of them. The Foundation is thrilled to be a part of this new era for the site.”
TNC worked with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program—as well as partners, neighbors and other stakeholders—to develop an overall plan to expand trails, improve wildlife overlooks and incorporate neighboring natural areas into the Kankakee Sands visitor experience.
Kankakee Sands is unique among TNC nature preserves in Indiana because of the bison that were reintroduced to the 8,400-acre preserve. The bison are a popular attraction and bring many visitors to the preserve. Beyond bison, there is much more to the story of this amazing restoration.
“Improvements to Kankakee Sands will benefit all who visit,” said Larry Clemens, state director for TNC’s Indiana Chapter. “Kankakee Sands is an amazing place, but we want to do more to make it a destination. We want to improve visitor access, experience and education while maintaining the natural beauty of the prairie.”
Newton County residents in particular will benefit from the improvements, said Clemens. “Not only will they benefit from the new and improved setting in which to enjoy nature, but also from the visitors who drive several hours to visit this awe-inspiring preserve. Visitors to Kankakee Sands come from across Indiana, as well as parts of Illinois and Michigan. They fuel their cars, stay in local hotels and dine at local establishments—all of which support the local economy.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.