Arlington Wetlands will open next spring.Photo courtesy of Collinsville Area Recreation District
A unique piece of public property will open next spring in Pontoon Beach, Ill. Arlington Wetlands will allow families to experience wetland habitats that used to be common in the Mississippi River flood plain.
Collinsville Area Recreation District, Madison County and Heartlands Conservancy had hoped to open the new park this month. Ironically, its been too dry to complete the improvements planned for the wetlands, especially the floating boardwalk.
Arlington Wetlands, 83 acres of American Bottom habitat, is located at 84 Arlington Drive, Granite City, Ill., 62040. When completed — hopefully early next spring — the property will feature interpretive signs and trails, including the floating boardwalk which transverses the main wetland pond, offering visitors a unique view of the habitat and animals that live there.
People have destroyed 85 percent of the wetlands in the American Bottom, said Megan Riechmann, community and environmental planner with Heartlands Conservancy, the organization tasked with returning the property to its native state. Wetlands slow the movement of large amounts of rainwater, abosorbing water to minimize flooding, reducing erosion and improving water quality, she said. They also provide habitat to birds and amphibians, and a variety of plants and other animals.
"Arlington is unique, with a main wetland, bottomland forest surrounding it ... then prairie around that," Riechmann said. The property is also home to a sand prairie, "the only one we know of in this area," she said. The sand prairie is home to native cacti, and Riechmann hopes the Illinois chorus frog will make a home there, too. The frog is known for its distinctive breeding call and is considered a threatened species by the state of Illinois.
Reichmann cautions it will take a few years to transition the land, which was previously used for agriculture, back to its native state. "It won't be to its full glory until three years from now," she said.
In the meantime, Collinsville Area Recreation District is preparing a variety of educational programs for the wetlands. Additonal information will be available in the spring. The district is also hosting work days as weather allows. For more information, visit the Arlington Wetlands website. From the calendar