Local couple to be recognized at Allerton trail dedication

Allerton Park & Retreat Center is hosting a dedication ceremony to honor Ward and Diana McDonald’s recent financial commitment to the Park. The event, which will officially name the Ward and Diana McDonald Family Trails, will be held on Thursday, April 21, at 4:00pm near the Lost Garden Parking Lot, just east of the intersection of E 1300 North Road and Allerton Road.

The dedication will be open to the public, and will include brief remarks, followed by a short hike on the McDonald Trails. Beginning near the site of the former Lost Garden, the trails wind for approximately four miles through high quality oak-hickory forest, and include unique views overlooking the Sangamon River, as well as bottomland forest. Allerton’s Director, Bruce Branham, indicates the event will be a casual celebration focused on recognizing the McDonalds, and highlighting how their gift will impact Allerton.

“We feel it’s important to bring together people who love Allerton to publically thank Ward and Diana for their generosity,” Branham said. “Their gift will not only improve the hiking experience, but will expand our ability to preserve our 1,500 of natural areas, and utilize them as a tool for public engagement and education. Gifts such as the McDonald’s are essential in light of dwindling State support and the unique challenges facing Allerton.”

The McDonald’s gift includes a substantial bequest for the preservation of the natural areas at Allerton Park, along with an endowment specifically for trail maintenance. The decision to support Allerton came easy for Ward and Diana, both University of Illinois alumni, who have lived nearly all of their adult lives along the Sangamon River between Mahomet and Seymour.

“In 1985, we acquired 200 acres of wooded upland and partially farmed bottomland, which we took out of production and put in hardwood trees: 50,000 walnuts, oaks, pecan, cypress, and ash,” Ward explained. “We built a log home and lived there with our three boys who also love the outdoors.”

Within a few years, they added more acreage, planted more trees, and built the home where they now reside. All of this land, excluding the home and immediate area, was put into a permanent conservation easement containing over three miles of trails.

“For us, it is all about bluebells blooming, mist settling, heron gliding, coyote pouncing, turkeys parading, red tails courting, fawns wobbling, bucks rutting, cotton floating, walnuts and acorns dropping, and owls hooting,” Diana continued. “We can’t always own our property, but after we are gone, we want our legacy and our devotion to nature to continue. For us, Allerton best exemplifies that vision.”

© Emily Magers - Mager Image Photography

For more on the McDonald’s gift, click here. For information on supporting Allerton Park click here.