Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center is a joint venture of the Homewood–Flossmoor and Olympia Fields Park Districts. This Nature Center is open to the public and combines adventure, recreation and education on a 40 acre site in Olympia Fields which caters to schools, team building groups and nature lovers.
The learning center team determined a site master plan was needed to help guide the future development and assist with fund raising as they continue to attract more visitors to their facilities. Upland Design brought their expertise in park and recreation development to the process. The design team led multiple input sessions including a values based planning approach, to determine what was needed to highlight all the sites beauty. Irons Oaks staff, volunteers and foundation brought there valuable input to determine which new amenities were needed and where changes should be directed.
The master plan focus is strongly led by the site’s sensitive natural hydrology and topography. A large portion of the site is located within an active floodplain and ravine. Upland Design’s recommendations were environmentally sensitive and highlighted the site’s natural ecosystem. The overall design concept is to maximize active space for programming needs while improving the natural systems and accessibility throughout the site.
New amenities including nature based play areas, amphitheater, and permanent outdoor pavilion will help to draw in users and provide needed functional event space. The existing wetland and pond area are schedule for upgrades that would improve the quality of the habitat and create a more interactive learning environment with boardwalks and outdoor classrooms on new overlook decks. Parking and accessibility improvements were also must haves and accommodated with upgrades to existing parking areas, new trails and accessible stairs.
Fundraising and Phasing strategies were also completed to assist the Center and Park Districts plan their improvements. Upland Design is currently involved with bringing the master plan to life with Phase 1 Development.