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Glancer Magazine

FUN IN NATURE | Hickory Knolls Natural Area Comes Alive Through New Walk-and-Read Children’s Story


Venture out to the Hickory Knolls Natural Area this fall to experience the trails like never before. St. Charles Park District staff recently installed an original walk-and-read children’s story to educate readers about the history of the land and the many different animals that live in and around the scenic open space.

Consisting of 13 story boards, “Hickory Knolls: A History of Our Home” follows Harley the hawk and Greta the grasshopper as they journey through the natural area. Along the way, and with the help of their animal friends, Harley teaches Greta about the changes that have occurred to preserve the land they call home.

Not only will children pick up fun facts about the animals, plants and land, they may also see those same characters in real life.

“There is an interactive element to it,” said Outreach Ambassador Pam Otto. “Readers are experiencing the story while reading it, making the story come alive.”

For example, while overlooking the tall grasses in the Metra Wetland, readers may also see Aaron the American goldfinch, the character they just met in the story. They might hear frog calls in the ponds while reading Spencer the spring peeper’s explanation of metamorphosis; or witness monarch butterflies fluttering through the prairie near Archery Woods while learning about the restoration efforts that allowed the native plants and its pollinators to thrive.

Inspired by Park Board Commissioner Bob Thomson, who originally proposed the idea for a walk-and-read story after experiencing a similar activity out of state, the St. Charles Park District Marketing Department created the story for Hickory Knolls.

Unlike many other story walks incorporated into the landscape of libraries and other community sites, “Hickory Knolls: A History of Our Home” is an original tale.

The writing style and storyline as well as the images may capture the attention of children, but readers young and old will appreciate how the story weaves in historical facts of the dramatic transformation of the land over the years and the ongoing effort it takes to maintain the site.

“I hope the story connects residents to Hickory Knolls and they begin to appreciate the land and help take care of it,” Otto said.

Bringing more awareness of the natural area itself was another goal of the walk-and-read story. Many people don’t know that Hickory Knolls stretches over more than 120 acres of prairies, woodlands, savannas, marshes and more.

“We are always encouraging Hickory Knolls Discovery Center visitors to explore the natural area, but there was also a need for unguided hikers to know what they were experiencing as they walked the trail,” Otto said. “This story fills that need.”

“There are so many wonderful amenities within the park district, and I hope that this unique story on this unique trail brings more families out to an area they may not have experienced before, or experienced in this way,” Thomson added.

The walk-and-read story begins on the trail across the road from the Hickory Hideout natural play area south of the garden plots. Look for the Andrini Trail sign to find the start. The first story board is down the path. The entire story walk is an estimated 3/4-mile. Inner loop story walk is about 1/2-mile.

For more information visit, Families will also find character bios on this page to learn more about the friends they meet on their interactive adventure.

PHOTO CAPTION: James and Charlotte McCoy, residents of North Aurora, enjoy the new Harley the Hawk Adventure Story Walk in Hickory Knolls Natural Area, St. Charles.