Students help clean park

By Elizabeth Kim

In an effort to help clean up Allerton Park, University students from Volunteer Illini Projects volunteered to improve park maintenance on Make a Difference Workday Saturday. This is the Volunteer Illini Projects’ environmental division’s third year participating in this event.

The park is a 1500-acre natural area with formal gardens, statuary, a manor house that has over 30,000 square feet, over 90 species of mammals and breeding birds and over 14 miles of hiking trail, according to the Allerton Park Web site.

“Allerton is a beautiful park,” said Stephanie Juen, environmental director of the organization and senior in ACES. “The event is a great opportunity to enjoy the area and the nice weather while helping out at the same time.”

Kimberly Petzing, environmental program coordinator and visitor center manager for Allerton Park, said Make a Difference is one of their bigger workdays for which they try to get as many people as possible to come out and help with projects around the park. Petzing said there are usually over 40 participants helping out each year.

“We get a lot of the University groups out here so it is a great chance for the students to get out and get involved at Allerton,” Petzing said. “It is a good way to get involved and get off-campus.”

“What I liked about the workday was getting to enjoy good company on a beautiful day outside,” said Garrett Rodgers, senior in ACES.

Jeremy Bellucci, senior in LAS, said the most attractive quality about the workday is Allerton Park itself.

“It is fun to get your hands dirty and help out in a place that is as unique and beautiful as (Allerton),” Bellucci said.

John Stanley, senior in Nursing, said the event was a great way to meet other students and area citizens with the same interest in improving Allerton Park.

“I personally enjoy going to Allerton Park because it is such a neat, yet historic park,” Stanley said. “The work they have each group do allows you to see that you are making a difference. When I go out there with friends and family I can say, hey I helped fix, repair, or improve this.”

Juen said one of the ways students helped out were with brush clearing and non-native species removal on a stretch of trail near the Sunsinger statue, a huge statue in the middle of a clearing that you can view while driving.

Petzing said another project volunteers helped out with was pulling out some old ground clots in the Avenue of the Chinese Musicians.

“I really enjoyed removing invasive plants from the Allerton forest because, as a natural resources and environmental science major, invasive species removal is very important to me,” said Kate Slemer, senior in ACES. “It was very rewarding to see how much progress we made in just a couple hours.”

Juen emphasized that it is important for students to volunteer with many local agencies like Allerton Park, Urbana Park District and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District because these organizations need a lot of assistance.

“They are understaffed and under funded and aren’t able to take care of everything without the help of volunteers,” Juen said. “They are always very appreciative and thankful for our help. It only takes a few hours of our time to make a big difference for them.”