If you would ask anyone who lives in South Beloit where Kelly Creek is, most people wouldn’t be able to tell you. But, this hidden creek is about to get new life thanks to a $30,000 grant the City of South Beloit received for development of the Kelly Creek Environmental Learning Landing and Trail. The grant was awarded by the Dr. Louis & Violet Rubin Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois’ Community Grants Program. This Sustainable Communities Grant focus is to “Preserve our natural environment, especially activities that increase the region’s understanding and appreciation of the environment.”

Kelly Creek is a heavily impacted spring that is co-mingled with storm water that emerges from culverts on property adjacent to Nature At The Confluence Environmental Center and a planned new South Beloit city park. The creek was buried underground many years ago to allow for development.  Where it emerges from the culverts, its banks were raised 8-9 ft. over the last 70 years with discarded foundry sand and slag, concrete, and tires.

Nature At The Confluence will be the city’s partner in this project, which complements the city’s park plans. Nature center staff has been working with the city over the last 3 years to clean up the creek, create trails along the north bank, and remove garbage and many tires. The organization provides stewardship and watershed programming that engages the community in restoring and taking care of the land.

The best part of my job is bringing the land at the confluence back to life and seeing people coming out to enjoy the trails, or pitching in to help clean it up. This project is part of our continuing quest to create a safe and enjoyable space for our community to engage with nature just steps from the city,” says Therese Oldenburg, Nature At The Confluence executive director.

The grant will provide funds to improve the south bank of Kelly Creek by removing unnatural fill and creating a landing area along the creek that will offer easy access for environmental programs and leisure activity. A new woodland trail along the creek will be created and native plantings will be added to provide a safe and aesthetically pleasing area for people to enjoy the creek.

Nature At The Confluence, located at 306 Dickop Street, South Beloit, is an environmental learning center that was built in 2017 on formally derelict property at the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Rock River. The grounds are open to the public and include trails that wind through the prairie restoration and along the water.

About the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois: The mission of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois is to serve as a catalyst for giving in order to attract, preserve, and grow an endowment for current and future needs of Northern Illinois. Since its founding in 1953 CFNIL has granted more than $73 million for charitable purposes. Learn more about CFNIL’s grantmaking and commitment to endowment at cfnil.org.