An Amazing History
In 1824, brothers Isaac and Absalom Funk set out across the open prairie in search of a site that would provide a good water supply, fertile soil, and timber for shelter and heat. Six months later, Robert and Dorothy Funk Stubblefield followed. Among the first settlers in the area, the Funks and Stubblefields put down roots in the area now known as Funks Grove, Illinois. Through hard work, strong values, and forward thinking, these families have permanently embedded their legacy in the landscape.
A Natural Gem
Funks Grove is the largest remaining intact prairie grove in the state of Illinois boasting over 1,000 acres of high quality natural area. Much of the land is protected as registered Illinois Land & Water Reserves or dedicated Illinois Nature Preserves and portions have been designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior.
The ground (264 acres) and buildings where the Nature Center sits were purchased by the Funks Grove Cemetery Association (FGCA) in 1992. The FGCA board is comprised of Stubblefield and Funk family members. Their love and appreciation for the Grove and desire to protect and share it with future generations ultimately resulted in the development of Sugar Grove Nature Center.
The FGCA established the Sugar Grove Foundation in 1995, with the intent of creating and nurturing a Nature Center. The Sugar Grove Foundation is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors consisting of both family and community members.
Previously a farm (pasture & row crop), work began immediately to restore the area to its natural habitat and create a Nature Center facility. Prairie restoration efforts led by Don Schmidt and continued by the Funks Grove Stewardship Group persist today with year round, biweekly stewardship work days. Reforestation efforts and other habitat improvements have been very successful and are on-going. Approximately 100 acres to the north of the center is still in row crop and will be converted to native habitat over time.
Volunteers, including Stubblefield & Funk family members and friends, spent countless hours (1998-2003) transforming an old cattle barn into a useable Nature Center facility. Geothermal heating and cooling, soy-based foam insulation, and recycled paper insulation were all utilized in the renovation. The Wildlife Observation Room was added during the summer of 2004 along with interpretive exhibits and displays.
The Nature Center officially opened to the public on October 16, 2004.