Trail Through Time
Location: Techny Prairie Park and Fields, 1750 Techny Road
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- 14 acres
- Restored prairie, wetlands and historic land features
- Formal Garden
- Recreational and Environmental Programs
- Educational Signs
- Fully accessible for people with disabilities
In a peaceful corner of Techny Prairie Park and Fields, the Northbrook Park District has created a unique natural history walk to educate the community and benefit the environment. Along the West Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River, the 14-acre Trail Through Time shows visitors how early settlers developed a relationship with the land and encourages interaction with nature. Stop by and travel back in time.
In the Trail Through Time, the Park District restored an old farm field and created an ecosystem, with a restored prairie and two wetlands that are home to mammals, birds and insects. As the site matures, the variety of species continues to increase. Highlighting the native landscapes are five main components: a classic council ring, a boardwalk over the wetland, a Native American hunting camp, the foundation of a sod school house and a discovery garden in a formal setting. Each site has educational signs and suggested activities, in addition to providing space for spontaneous play.
Visitors can enjoy the Trail through active or passive experiences, including self-directed interpretation and programming guided by a naturalist. Children can race through tall grasses and study insects. They develop a deeper understanding of the environment as they learn how pioneers relied on natural resources―building houses out of sod, using plants for cooking and making toys. Guests can sit on the boardwalk and enjoy birds, plants and vistas rarely found in a suburban village. Photographers and painters can record the seasons through their art.
To provide hands-on learning, the Park District provides an assortment of recreational and environmental programs that include wigwam-building, animal races and raising beetles to eat invasive plants. “Nature at Night” events introduce children to the thrill of discovery on the Trail. Scout groups earn outdoor badges, and volunteers become “Prairie Dawgs” to serve as stewards for the site and assist with weeding and planting.
By restoring the land, providing a home for wildlife, offering a variety of experiences and illustrating life on the prairie, the Trail Through Time encourages exploration of the natural world. Children and adults who visit the Trail Through Time can understand the spirit of the pioneers, the value of prairie, wetlands and open space and the need for balance in the environment. The Park District has transformed an old field into a rich marshland habitat where learning can take place every day, with nature as the teacher.
Opened in July of 2004, the Trail was created with the help of two grants from the state of Illinois―$1.4 million from an Open Land Trust Grant and $200,000 from the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program. To maintain the undeveloped feeling, many of the materials used along the Trail are recycled. The path is made from ground asphalt reused from a nearby road resurfacing project. The boardwalk and its benches are constructed from a sawdust and plastic material that uses recycle plastic milk bottles.
Planned to accommodate a variety of users, from individuals to families and school groups, the Trail Through Time has won two awards―one for its unique design and development and one for environmental activities. In 2005, the Illinois Park and Recreation Association honored the project with an Outstanding Facility and Parks Award. And the Northbrook Park District received the 2008 Environmental Award from the National Parks and Recreation Association, Great Lakes Region. The GLR commended the Park District for being “active and exceptional” in furthering the goals and values of parks and recreation.The Trail and boardwalk are fully accessible for people with disabilities, and all ages can share the experience.