CFP: Homer Lake Interpretive Center, Champaign County Forest Preserve District 9:30-10:50 TR

We are looking for more students to work with this exciting new Community Partner!  Please enroll in this section!!


Pam Leiter, Assistant Director Education Department
Homer Lake Interpretive Center
Homer Lake Forest Preserve
2573 Homer Lake Rd
Homer, IL 61849

Organization Mission 

Museum & Education Department (Champaign County Forest Preserve District)
Our mission is to collect, preserve and interpret the natural and cultural history of Champaign County and East Central Illinois. Our vision: Through diverse experiences, we seek to inspire our audiences with a sense of connection to, and stewardship of, their natural and cultural world.

The Museum & Education Department serves over 22,000 people annually, and consists of its staff and volunteers, and facilities throughout the Preserves. We maintain collections and permanent exhibits at the Museum of the Grand Prairie and the Homer Lake Interpretive Center, and offer programs through them, and all the facilities and trails at each of the District's preserves. We also provide a range of other services, including trailside signage, web-based materials, loan resources, research opportunities, volunteer opportunities, internships, and continuing professional development opportunities.

Problems and/or Opportunities

The Homer Lake Interpretive Center offers the unique opportunity to connect Homer Lake visitors with the natural and cultural resources found in Champaign County's forest preserves. Each day, we teach someone something new, inspire a new passion or hobby, and bring people closer to their natural and cultural heritage, building lifetime memories as well as an understanding of our mission.

Program participation and visitation numbers at the HLIC have more than doubled since 2009, demonstrating substantial success. Staff recognize that the current facility no longer meets the needs of its users, and that a Needs Assessment is the first step toward visioning for the future.

Solutions and Projects 

In cooperation with staff, conduct a Needs Assessment using a variety of methods: conduct background research and gather input, present findings, propose goals and make recommendations, and include photos, renderings and videos for use in future fundraising efforts. The Needs Assessment will be a first step to the development of a Master Plan to guide the redevelopment of the Homer Lake Interpretive Center.

Overview of Needs Assessment Steps

  • Become familiar with the Museum & Education Department's mission, vision, goals and strategies.
  • Conduct background research, including researching best practices and similar interpretive centers.
  • Develop an understanding of how the Interpretive Center is currently used, how it meets the needs of the department, as well as its shortcomings and limitations
  • Gather input from staff as well as the community and other stakeholders using a variety of methods; further identify the facility's strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats posed by its reconstruction, expansion, or renovation. Use the input to compile and prioritize a comprehensive list of current and future needs.
  • Based on the above, develop creative alternatives that meet identified current and future needs. Identify pros and cons of selections and estimated costs as feasible.
  • Provide a written report and make presentations to CCFPD staff, Board of Commissioners, and other stakeholder groups as identified in cooperation with staff.
  • Provide conceptual drawings, which could include: site plan, building entrance, landscaping, indoor and outdoor program space, exhibits, wildlife viewing window.
  • Provide an inspirational video (which could be used for fundraising) summarizing future opportunities based on the Needs Assessment.

More information about the Community Partner

The Museum of the Grand Prairie has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1972, and the Museum and Education Department is guided by the best practices from organizations such as the National Association for Interpretation, the National Association for Museum Exhibitions and the National Park Service.

The Homer Lake Interpretive Center, a facility of the Museum of the Grand Prairie at the Champaign County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD), is located at the entrance to Homer Lake Forest Preserve. The building was originally a single-family residence, and it was dedicated in 1976 as the Trailside Visitor Center. The building is 2,242 square feet, which includes 411 square feet of office space, 640 square feet of storage/mechanical/multi-use space, and 862 square feet of foyer and displays/program space. The office currently houses 4 year-round staff as well as interns, seasonal staff and volunteers.

At the Center, programs for schools and homeschoolers, and public programs, are offered throughout the year. Summer camps are conducted each June-July. Public programs include large events, activity based adult and children's programs, how-to demonstrations, and musical performances.

One of the main highlights for many visitors are the Center's exhibits, which tell the story of Homer Lake area's landscape & peoples as it relates to the larger story of the Grand Prairie region. The interactive exhibits include hands-on activities, live animals, and a wildlife viewing area complete with bird feeders and a fountain. The Center also serves as a visitor center for those with questions about Homer Lake Forest Preserve and CCFPD.

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