Forest Preserve Friends Foundation

The Forest Preserve Friends Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation organized for charitable and educational purposes. The Foundation supports the facilities, programs, services, goals and mission of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. In turn, it generates grant support and collaborative relationships with other agencies.

Your contributions to the Foundation support the projects and activities at the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. Whether helping to acquire land, maintain natural and recreational areas, provide educational experiences, or preserve the County's natural and cultural resources, your gift will touch the lives of generations to come.

Three Rivers Society

The Three Rivers Society is a giving society created to protect and preserve Champaign County’s natural and cultural resources via a strong, proud, and generous group of people that consistently donate funds dedicated to our mission. Donors receive membership with an annual unrestricted gift of $1,000 or more. Members will receive access to a special bi-annual newsletter, invitations to special members’ only events, advanced notice of district events and project openings, and will be featured in a special category in our yearly donor recognition in our Leaflet. For more information, contact Ryan Anderson at [email protected].

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Board Members

  • Will Timmons, Chairman
  • Matt Hausman, Vice President
  • Jennifer Vallowe, Secretary
  • Mary Ellen Wuellner, Treasurer 
  • Carter Billingsley
  • Shira Epstein
  • Nancy Guebelle
  • Roger Laramee
  • Sarah Livesay
  • Brendan McGinty
  • Merry Mitchell
  • Dan Noel
  • Rachel Smith-Bolton
  • Megan McNellis, Donor Relationship Coordinator
  • Lorrie Pearson, Executive Director CCFPD
  • Bill Goodman, CCFPD Board Liaison

Areas of Support

Improvements at the Homer Lake North Boat Launch

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District needs your help to meet the demand for improved water recreation at the Homer Lake Forest Preserve. Since its initial construction, the North Boat Launch has been a popular spot for people to access Homer Lake. However, the current amenities do not meet the demand created by the popularity of the site. There are also limited opportunities for visitors with mobility limitations to access the water. To address these needs we need your help to raise funds for improvements to the existing boat launch which will include replacing the retaining wall, restoring the existing dock, ADA parking, and accessible paths. Improvements made possible by your donations will allow the District to support long time users of the preserve and broaden opportunities for new visitors to enjoy Homer Lake. With the help of the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation, we are seeking to raise $20,000 to help provide greater access to one of Homer Lake Forest Preserves most popular recreational amenities. 

Please consider making a donation to fund the Homer Lake North Boat Launch Improvements. Your support of this project will make an immediate and lasting impact on accessible recreation in Champaign County.

Donate to the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation

Expanding the Dark Sky Amenities at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District plans to improve Middle Fork River Forest Preserve, Illinois’ first and only International Dark Sky Park, by creating a new Dark Sky Trail to support Dark Sky tourism, recreation, and education. The project will construct an observatory, expand parking and camping capacity, and install educational signage on the harm of light pollution and value of dark skies. 

Middle Fork is the largest preserve in Champaign County and is a popular camping and hiking destination. It also boasts some of darkest skies in the county, making conditions optimal for stargazing, and in 2018, was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, the first and only in Illinois. Since then, Middle Fork’s visitation has significantly increased and the park has received Visit Champaign County’s 2021 Tourism Impact Award for its expanding role in local astro-tourism. 

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD) was awarded $294,000 in grant funding by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) Grant Program to support the construction of a dark sky trail and amenities at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve in Penfield, Illinois. The Champaign County Forest Preserve District and the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation need your help to raise $100,000 in order to match this grant and make this project a reality. Your donations will help protect the night sky and preserve our natural environment.

Donate to the Dark Sky Trail

Memorial Bench Program

To get started, contact staff at [email protected] or by calling (217) 586-3360. Your $2,200 donation covers: the cost of the bench and its installation, engraved plaque, and ten-year guarantee.

District staff will work with you to find a meaningful available location at one of our preserves. All benches will be placed in one of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District preserves. You may request a bench at a specific preserve; however, the bench site within the preserve will be determined in collaboration with CCFPD staff. Please note, benches at the Kickapoo Rail Trail are not available through this program.

You’ll decide between a sustainable hardwood or recycled bench. Honorary and memorial benches have a ten-year replacement guarantee.

Once you’ve determined the type of bench and location with the help of staff, you’ll be asked to complete a form and submit your donation. On the form, you will be given the opportunity to include the text you’d like on the dedication plaque. Once the donation and form have been received by District staff, we will begin the installation process of the bench. Once the bench is installed, donors will receive a letter informing them of placement. The honoree or family will be notified of the placement as well, if requested. The donated bench becomes the property and responsibility of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. It will be maintained as necessary.


Honorary and Memorial Tree Program

Give a tribute to someone special with an honorary or memorial tree. These living legacies give a lifetime of remembrance for you and provide a gift for the whole community. Your gift will be an important part of the natural landscape by adding beauty to the preserve, providing a home for wildlife, and cleaning the air we breathe.

Trees may be given as presents for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or other special occasions. Consider dedicating a tree to an office worker, award winner, a beloved pet, or to commemorate a birth.

Your $500 donation covers the cost of the tree and its planting, care for the first five years, and an engraved brass leaf to be placed on one of the District's donor trees at the preserve where the tree is planted. All brass leaves are placed on trees at the District Headquarters Office and the Lake of the Woods Golf Course. There are additional donor trees with brass leaves at Homer Lake and Middle Fork River for trees planted in those preserves.


To dedicate a tree in the Honorary and Memorial Tree Program simply call the CCFPD Director of Natural Resources at (217) 586-4389 or e-mail your request to [email protected]. We will work with you on tree placement and choosing the best type of tree for the area.

Requests for spring planting should be made by March 31st, and requests for fall planting should be made by September 30th.

The cost for tree donation is $500 and is subject to change.

When the tree is planted, the donor will receive a letter describing the location of the tree, and an Honorary and Memorial Tree Brass Leaf form. This completed form should be returned to the Forest Preserve District so the information can be used to inscribe a brass leaf to be placed on the donor tree found at each preserve. We ask that payment be sent to us when the Brass Leaf Form is completed and returned to us.

Honorary and memorial trees have a five-year replacement guarantee. If a tree should die within five years of its original planting, a replacement tree will be planted during the next available planting season.

All trees will be planted in one of the five Champaign County Forest Preserve District preserves. You may request a planting at any of the preserves; however, the planting site within the preserve will be determined by the CCFPD staff. Donors will be notified when the tree has been planted. The donated tree becomes the property and responsibility of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. It will be maintained, pruned and if necessary, removed by the CCFPD. The CCFPD is not responsible for notifying the donor and/or honoree of the tree's demise.

Legacy Giving

Are you looking for ways to support the Champaign County Forest Preserve District along with its facilities, programs, goals, and missions during your lifetime or as a lasting legacy? Then consider the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation as a means of satisfying this lifetime charitable objective or as a legacy under your estate plan.

Lifetime gifts to the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation can be made in a variety of forms including cash, appreciated securities, and real estate. These types of gifts can provide you with financial benefit in the form of income tax deductions and reduction of capital gains tax all while benefiting the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.

Legacy gifts of cash, securities, and real estate can also be made to the Champaign County Forest Preserve Friends Foundation by naming the Foundation as a beneficiary under a Will or Trust. This allows you to continue your current lifestyle through the use of these assets during your lifetime together with the flexibility to change your plans as necessary due to life changes, all while ultimately benefiting the Champaign County Forest Preserve District after your death. Estate tax benefits may also be obtained by such legacy gifts.

 A lifetime and legacy gift might also include establishing a Charitable Remainder Trust.  Such a trust can provide regular payments for yourself, your spouse, or a loved one for life and benefit the Champaign County Forest Preserve Friends Foundation as the beneficiary of the Trust after death. Charitable Remainder Trusts can provide income tax deductions, can eliminate capital gains tax on lifetime gifts, and provide estate tax savings at death.

Other simple forms of assets and means to consider in leaving a legacy to the Forest Preserve Friends Foundation might include naming the Foundation as beneficiary of retirement plan assets, life insurance, bank accounts, or investment accounts. Naming the Foundation as direct beneficiary of retirement plan assets provides a way of transferring assets to the Foundation on a tax-free basis.

 If you are interested in discussing these ideas with us, please contact [email protected] or your personal legal or financial advisor.