CLINTON — They’ve painted the barn and stained the deck, and now the board and volunteers at Soaring Eagle Nature Center need people to use the space.
Owned by the City of Clinton and leased to nonprofit organization Eagle Point Nature Society, Soaring Eagle Nature Center is available for birthday parties, weddings and meetings for a donation.
The Nature Society operates the large red barn – full of stuffed wildlife natural to Clinton County – as well as a one-room school house, hiking trails and the dog park in Eagle Point Park, Treasurer Cliff Wilkerson said Monday.
Wilkerson stumbled into his position with the Nature Center while looking for wood, he said. He retired a couple of years ago and now spends his time improving the Nature Center grounds.
Improvements and maintenance require a lot of work, which means the Nature Center needs volunteers and money.
Prairie Pastures Dog Park is self-sustaining, Wilkerson said. Located on the site of an old zoo, the 8-acre, off-leash dog park offers unusual structures and varied terrain, including a swimming pond, for $3 a day, according to the Soaring Eagle website.
The barn and Flannery school house used to host school groups, but with COVID restrictions, that didn’t happen in 2020, Wilkerson said. The Nature Society wasn’t able to have its fall hayride, either.
Flannery schoolhouse at the Soaring Eagle site is the last known of Clinton County’s 166 one-room schools. Built in the summer of 1935, Flannery was the last one-room school built in Clinton County.
Originally located on Humestown Road on Herb Peters’ property north of DeWitt, the one-room school was moved to its current location to save it from demolition the fall of 1975, according to the Soaring Eagle website.
The Fanger family obtained 40 acres at the Soaring Eagle site as a land grant and moved there from Ohio in 1840, the Soaring Eagles website says. The land was passed down in the Fanger family for more than a hundred years. The barn was built in 1938.
In 1949, Charles A. and Mary Holm purchased the property, and Charles established Eagle Point Stables and bred and groomed purebred Palominos. In 1972, the Clinton City Park Board purchased the property and made it a nature center.
The barn has a large meeting room, bathrooms, a kitchenette with refrigerators and a deck. Outside is seating around a fire pit and a platform that can be used for bands and other performers.
When the Nature Center repainted the barn, it started a GoFundMe page to pay for it, said Wilkerson. Clinton’s Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, under Jason Horst’s management, donated primer and gave the Nature Center a good deal on the paint, Wilkerson said.
Someone donated a lift to get volunteers to the highest points on the barn.
Carpet, new beams and new wiring have created a large event space in the loft of the barn. That will eventually be available for rent as well, Wilkerson said.
The Nature Center has booked a couple of birthday parties this year, said Wilkerson, but the site is under-used and not well known. Marketing the site is one of the many tasks the board is working on, he said.
The Soaring Eagle grounds lost 70 trees in last summer’s derecho, according to Wilkerson. Volunteers had to cut and haul off the trees and replace a shed that was blown away. The concrete slab was donated, said volunteer Dale Tobey, and volunteers are putting up the building.
The flower garden, planted and maintained by volunteers, is interesting in itself to gardeners and botanists. It hosts butterflies and other insects that will draw additional visitors, such as nature photographers.
The board is always looking for volunteers, said Wilkerson. The Nature Center has a list of 65-70 things that need done. “When people show up, they know what they can work on,” he said.
Anyone who wants more information or wants to volunteer or reserve the facilities may contact Soaring Eagle Nature Center by phone at 563-242-9088, by email at email@example.com or through the Soaring Eagle Nature Center Facebook page.
The Nature Center is located at 3923 N. Third St., adjacent to Eagle Point Park, in Clinton.