Singing Woods is growing!

On May 24, 2017, the Peoria Park District acquired a 9-acre parcel of woodlands. It was part of an estate that was home to the Raistrick family for a couple of generations. After the death of Mary Raistrick, the surviving family had a tough decision to make as they settled the estate. It’s hard to let things go… and this family fondly remembered growing up here. Phil Raistrick, Mary’s son and executor to the estate, recalled growing up and exploring their woods, finding tree frogs and playing in the shade of huge trees. To settle the estate meant selling the property.


Mary Raistrick owned Nature’s Own Shoppe in Peoria for 47 years before she died in 2014. Her family’s woodland acreage was recently acquired by the Peoria Park District. (Supplied Art)

That can be a risky situation. If he sold the property to someone, what would stop him or her from cutting the trees and building a house. Lucky for those who live here in Central Illinois, Phil had a different idea. He contacted the Peoria Park District to see if it might be interested in helping preserve the woodlands.

From the Park District’s perspective, protecting the woodlands was in our best interests as well. The woodland borders a new prairie restoration at our Tawny Oaks Field Station property. It is also immediately adjacent to our Singing Woods Nature Preserve. Saving the woods insures we protect the ecological integrity of both our forest and our new prairie planting. We needed to make this happen!
Thankfully, the Raistrick family was willing to be patient with the Peoria Park District as we tried to put together funding to make the preservation of the woods a reality. The Peoria Park District doesn’t have a stockpile of cash to purchase land. We asked for financial assistance from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, a private foundation that provides assistance to organizations interested in preserving natural areas in Illinois. The foundation also saw the significance of protecting this woodland for future generations.

To further enhance protection, the 9-acre parcel, along with an additional 31 acres of adjacent Peoria Park District property, will be dedicated as Illinois Nature Preserve. This will bring the total acreage of the Singing Woods Nature Preserve to 749 acres. Nature Preserve designation is the highest level of protection that is available in the State of Illinois.
The Park District’s voluntary enrollment of both the newly acquired parcel and the additional acres into the Illinois Nature Preserve system was one of several factors that made the grant proposal attractive to the foundation, which also helped with the purchase of the Tawny Oaks site in 2007 and has awarded a total of 172 land acquisition grants to projects across Illinois. According to Executive Director Dennis O’Brien, “The foundation continues to be impressed by the care taken by the Peoria Park District, its nonprofit partner Peoria Wilds, and all of the dedicated local volunteers as they work together to ensure the quality of habitat protected at this special preserve.”

On Sept. 12, 2017, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission will be meeting in Peoria. As part of that meeting, they will officially dedicate the woods as the newest addition to the Illinois Nature Preserve System. At that moment, it will be protected… Forever!
The Peoria Park District owns and manages over 1,655 acres of Dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve. It shows the Park District’s commitment to being guardians of a quality environment and responsible stewards of the land for those who live and visit the region. The Peoria Park District’s mission is “To enrich life in our community through stewardship of the environment and the provision of quality recreational and leisure opportunities.” To learn more about our local parks, please visit

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