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Collaboration creates Litchfield Route 66 prairie

Montgomery County visitors can view 10 acres of over 200 native plant species

With its tourist stops in Pontiac, Bloomington and Springfield, Route 66 in Illinois connects motorists to a road before the interstates. In Montgomery County, the route provides spaces for pollinators and plants to thrive.

The Litchfield Route 66 Prairie off Interstate 55 is the result of a four-year partnership between IDOT and local Montgomery County environmental groups. This 10-acre prairie, part of the Illinois Route 66 Monarch Flyway, is home to more than 200 native plant species and several types of large and small animals. It also provides resources monarch butterflies need when making their migratory journey.

“Although this is not a typical project for IDOT, I’m very proud of the way the department stepped up to get this accomplished,” said Mike Staab, roadside manager for District 6. IDOT was instrumental in providing the necessary help to construct the Litchfield Route 66 Prairie—from building a parking lot to include bus parking for visitors and a path that runs directly on the alignment of the original Route 66. For historical interest, two chunks of concrete from the original Route 66 roads were placed at the north end of the walking path.

Signs identifying the prairie and informational signs about the habitat were installed in late June by the Natural Area Guardians. The group, along with Pheasants Forever, the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District, Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway and the Litchfield Tourism Office, are local partners working to make this a great attraction and a must-stop destination for environmentalists and Route 66 enthusiasts.

“IDOT adapted to be a great partner in this because they were able to recognize that this prairie was a very valuable resource,” said IDOT Roadside Management Resource Specialist Erin Holmes.

More information about the Route 66 Prairie can be found by viewing the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxMqPSfGZls.