April 10, 2019

There’s still time to purchase blocks at SIU Touch of Nature Welcome Plaza

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — It’s happening; construction is beginning April 22 on the new multi-purpose Welcome Plaza at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

Located at the main entrance to Camp 2, the handicapped-accessible site will feature historical and educational information and serve as a space for guests and visitors to gather and enjoy the beauty of the area.

Local people will do the work

Staff and apprentices from the Illinois Laborers’ and Contractors’ Training and Apprenticeship Program of the Laborers’ International Union of North America will be creating the large, circular, open-air pavilion with tapered stone background walls at the rear. LiUNA provides ongoing support for Touch of Nature and its programs, camps and events.

The plaza will also include concrete benches and indigenous bushes and flowers along with educational kiosks featuring interesting information about the facility, its unique history and the wildlife and plants found there. Future plans call for the installation of a statue of William Freeberg, the pioneering therapeutic recreation expert who with Delyte Morris, the late SIU president, spearheaded the purchase of the property and development of the facility.

The two helped the university acquire 150 acres in the Shawnee National Forest and Camp at Little Grassy Lake, now known as Camp Little Giant, was borne. The camp for people with differing abilities and disabilities, was the first such university-affiliated program in the country.

Since 1949, Touch of Nature has grown to encompass 3,100 acres of lakes, forests and hills offering zip lining, a high ropes course, rock climbing, canoeing/boating/swimming and countless other amenities. In addition to Camp Little Giant, numerous other camps, environmental education programs and activities are held there as well as corporate retreats, weddings and more.

You can still get involved

One of the highlights of the project is the floor featuring special etched bricks and paver stones. Groups, businesses and individuals can help provide vital support for the experiential learning facility and immortalize loved ones or businesses by purchasing an engraved paver or brick.

The bricks are standard-size 4- by 8-inch rectangles while the ground pavers are 15 inches square. On each, up to three lines of text, with a maximum of 13 characters per line, can be added.

Purchase an engraved brick for $100 or a paver for $250.

Workers will be creating the plaza and memorial patio in such a way that people can purchase the engraved blocks at any time, as plain bricks and pavers can be replaced with engraved ones upon purchase.

Order bricks online

Purchase forms and additional information about the project are available online. Completed forms can be submitted via email.

For more details, call 618/453-1121 or email tonec@siu.edu.