Public invited to Illinois Prairie Path Archives open house Aug. 11 at North Central College

Jul 18, 2014

The public is invited to meet volunteers who helped build the Illinois Prairie Path and view materials from the organization’s archives during an open house Aug. 11 at North Central College.

The Illinois Prairie Path Archives Open House takes place from 1 to 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 11, in the lower level of North Central College’s Oesterle Library, 320 E. School St., Naperville.

The College in early February accepted delivery of the Prairie Path archives, which previously had been stored in Wheaton. Materials in the collection now available for public viewing include photographs, illustrations and other items that chronicle the 50-year history of the path that inspired the rails-to-trails movement in the United States.

The 62-mile trail stretches across Cook, DuPage and Kane counties and is a former right-of-way for the defunct Chicago Aurora & Elgin electric railway.

At the Aug. 11 open house visitors can view a restored, narrated film strip that the founders presented to build support for the project. The film recruited community members into active volunteers, including some who have volunteered for the Prairie Path since the 1960s. Guests may also meet and hear presentations by several legacy volunteers who helped build the path.

Scheduled presentations include:
·    1 p.m. “The Red Caboose Trail,” Dick and Nancy Wilson will highlight decades of innovative volunteer projects by Boy Scouts.
·    2 p.m. “Promoting the Vision for a Public Path,” Experience the premiere showing of the restored persuasive 1964 film that was exhibited more than 400 times.
·    3 p.m. “Wheaton Friends of the Prairie Path,” George Johnson and Don Westlake will tell a citizen action story about the path’s first mile.
·    4 p.m. “The Founders: People of Vision, Courage and Determination,” Carol Doty will describe how fellow volunteers and mentors provided inspiration.
·    5 p.m. “Prairies of the Path,” Keith Olson and Larry Sheaffer will talk about prairie sites, prairie burns and Monarch butterflies.
·    6 p.m. “Let’s Build the Bridge,” participants who helped build the Volunteer Bridge in 1983 will share their stories.

Visit the Illinois Prairie Path’s website at for updates about the open house.

The Illinois Prairie Path Archives are part of the Suburban Studies Archives at North Central College. The Illinois Prairie Path’s 14 founders included the late Warren Keck of Naperville, who taught biology at North Central College from 1947 to 1969 and the late May Theilgaard Watts of Naperville, a naturalist who spearheaded efforts to create the trail.