Grass Roots and a Community Connected

The Watershed Nature Center was founded in 1991 when local community members John and Kay Kendall proposed turning an abandoned sewage lagoon into a nature center. The City of Edwardsville endorsed the plan to transform the lagoon into a city park, and the Nature Preserve Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, was formed to manage the land.


From the beginning, the community as a whole was instrumental in the creation of the Watershed Nature Center. The Operating Engineers Local 520 agreed to use the site as their training ground, and excavated the two lakes and wetland areas for no cost.



Area families, local businesses, and community groups like the Kiwanis, Rotary Club, and Junior Service League supported the transformation with donations of their time, tools, and monetary contributions. A grant from the Illinois Department of Conservation was obtained for restoration of the wetland habitats and construction of the Welcome Center.


In 1995 the Welcome Center was completed and the Watershed Nature Center welcomed its first visitors. Its mission to provide environmental education and passive recreation was embraced by the community as more individuals and groups recognized the value of restoring native habitats to our area.


In 1998 the Edwardsville School District worked with the Nature Preserve Foundation to design and implement an Environmental Science curriculum, bringing hands-on educational opportunities to thousands of school children.


2010 brought many positive accolades to the Watershed. In June, KMOV TV broadcast video footage of the Watershed as part of their “On the Road” series. In August, Family Circle Magazine listed Edwardsville as one of the “10 Best Towns for Families,” citing the Watershed Nature Center as one of the attractions that makes Edwardsville a great place to live.

The Watershed Nature Center continues to carry out its Guiding Principles:
• Establish, maintain, and restore three native southwestern Illinois habitats: prairie, forest, and wetland.
• Provide opportunities for environmentally focused education, passive recreation, and enjoyment of natural habitats.