Frequently Asked Questions
How is Douglas-Hart Nature Center funded?
The Nature Center is owned and maintained by the Douglas-Hart Foundation, and governed by a Board of Directors. As a non-profit organization, Douglas-Hart receives no tax support. Much of the money used to support the Nature Center is derived from an endowment that Helen Douglas-Hart left to the Foundation. Other funding derives from programs, grants, memberships & donations.
Who started the Douglas-Hart Nature Center?
Mattoon local Helen Douglas-Hart had a dream of developing a natural area that would reflect the native habitats of east-central Illinois. In 1960 she made that dream a reality by taking 33 acres of farmed fields out of production to plant native species. Over the years more species, geography, and infrastructure have been gradually added.
Is there a fee for visiting the Nature Center?
Admission to the nature center and trails is free. Some programs do have a cost, though usually minimal.
Trails are open everyday, sunrise to sunset. Weekdays the building is open from 8am-4pm. Saturdays the building is open from 10am-4pm and Sundays from 1pm-4pm. The building is closed on most federal holidays and on Sundays during the winter.
Are dogs allowed on the trails?
Yes. Dogs must always be leashed and owners must clean up after their pets.
How long are the trails?
We have approximately 2.0 miles of trails. The main loop through the woodlands is 0.9 miles. Two shortcut trails shorten the loop hike while the optional Northern prairie loop adds distance. View our map for guidance.
What species of trees and plants grow here?
Before the 1960’s, this land was a farm field. Most all of the trees and vegetation you see today had to be planted here. Though we try to maintain native species supportive of a healthy Illinois habitat, some of the plants found here are non-native or even invasive. Ongoing land management seeks to improve our native diversity.
Why are certain plants or trees being removed?
Most likely because they are invasive. Invasive species do not belong in this region but have the ability to “take over” areas, leaving no space for the native plants that are unique to Illinois or our region. Fighting the spread of invasive species is a major environmental goal meant to protect plants and wildlife.
Do you allow fishing?
No. Fishing and hunting are not allowed here. Discarded hooks, fishing line, and other materials would be dangerous to visitors and wildlife. To fish or hunt, please visit one of the other nature parks in the area that can better accommodate these activities.
Yes! Anyone with a positive attitude and a desire to help can join our volunteer team. Please fill out a volunteer application so that we can know more about you. The volunteer coordinator will contact you after submitting your application. There is no commitment attached to turning in an application or requesting more information about the volunteer program.
Are you hiring?
The nature center operates on limited funds and is very rarely hiring. Seasonal interns are sometimes paid, but these positions are very competitive. Open positions will be advertised to the public when they occur. Seasonal summer camp staff and conservation crew positions open in February every year. Volunteer experience on your resume may get you another job though, so please consider volunteering instead!
Yes, if the date does not conflict with a nature center program or event. Staff must approve the date in advance. Typically, room rentals last 3 hours and must occur within normal nature center hours. Patrons may choose to rent the entire classroom or half the classroom. Before the rooms can be reserved for a rental, the patron must get the date approved, sign a contract, and make payment.
How do I find out about upcoming programs?
By becoming a member, or Friend, of the Douglas-Hart Nature Center, patrons are subscribed to the quarterly Nuthatch News publication, which lists upcoming programs for the season. Non-members can stop by the nature center to pick up a copy of the Nuthatch News, or can request to receive the newsletter by email at no cost. Or view our calendar for a complete list of programs.
Can I bring D-HNC an injured or orphaned animal I found?
No. Douglas-Hart Nature Center does not rehabilitate wildlife. We do not have the facilities, equipment, permits, or training to do so. It is illegal for anyone to possess a wild animal without the proper permit, even if trying to help. See our list of of wildlife or animal control resources below.
Can we release an injured or wild animal here?
No. Animals are rarely abandoned orphans and are usually better off where they are without human interference. Even here, animals are never safe from predators, cars, and other mortal dangers. Our lands support their own delicate ecosystems and food chains that would suffer from the addition of extra animals.
What should we do with this baby rabbit we found?
Leave it be. Baby rabbits are ready to survive on their own at a very young age that might seem too young to humans. Also, mother rabbits only visit their nest for about 10 minutes a day. She is very sneaky, so you may not ever see her. If the babies are moved out of the nest, the mother will locate them by their cries and move them to a safe place. It is extremely difficult to raise a baby rabbit and it will most likely die under human care. For this reason, many rehabilitators will not accept baby rabbits.
What should I do if there is a baby bird on the ground and it cannot fly?
For many baby birds, this is a natural part of growing up. Young birds spend 2 weeks living on the ground while their parents watch from nearby bushes. It is a dangerous time for them, but part of their natural life. If the bird has scruffy feathers, it is probably old enough to be outside the nest even if it cannot fly, and should be left alone. If the bird is completely bald, you may look for the nest it fell from and try to put it back. If you cannot do this, try to leave the baby bird in a place where its parents might find it, as they will attempt a rescue. Don’t worry, birds do not abandon their babies after a human touches them.
Animal Control & Rehabilitators
Help I've Found An Animal
Coles Co. Animal Control
Nuisance animal control
U of I Wildlife Clinic
(Deer and Squirrels)
Cathlene Hiser, DVM (Emergency only, fees apply)
Illinois Raptor Center
Native Plants & Landscaping