Annual fundraiser for Prairie

By Jessica Schuh

Area residents who want to donate to prairie restoration can do so this weekend while getting a good workout. The seventh annual Rattlesnake Master Run for the Prairie will take place this Sunday at 9 a.m. at a pavilion near the Orchard Downs family housing, 1900 S. Orchard St., in Urbana.

The event will benefit Heartland Pathways, a local non-profit agency that creates trails and maintains prairie along old railway corridors.

There will be a 5K and 10K run as well as a 5K walk. All three go through Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, which includes restored prairie land that used to be cornfields, said Dave Monk, Heartland Pathways director.

“The park district in Urbana has done a fabulous job,” Monk said.

In the past, the event has had up to 150 participants, he said.

“(The event) is to give people an opportunity to understand the prairie and what has to happen to restore it,” he said.

Participants can pay $15 in advance at Body ‘N Sole Sports or $18 on the day of the run.

Mahomet resident Bill Wasson will volunteer for as a timer for the event. Wasson works with Monk in prairie restoration projects.

“We lost so much of the original prairie that it’s important to have some prairie left so folks can see what this country looked like,” Wasson said.

Wasson said the prairie gave Illinois its rich soil.

Only about .001 percent of Illinois’ natural prairie still exists today. It is important to restore prairie land and maintain what is left because some plants and animals that live in the prairie have important functions, he said.

“This is our rainforest,” Monk said. “We can’t afford to see it go.”