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36

Formally Known as “Site M”

Why “Site M”?

The story most accepted is that the “M” stood for Menard

County, where the Edison Company had purchased several

hundred coal-bearing acres as a fuel source for the proposed

electric plant.

ComEd’s land office was also in Menard County and it was

assumed the new facility would also be in Menard County.

Though the company ultimately bought Cass County land for

the plant, the complex had already been carrying the “Station

M” designation for some time.

Many names were suggested for the site, but when Jim Edgar

was Governor, Site M became more than just a piece of land.

Edgar often toured the area, recognized its inherent beauty

and had the vision to make “M” a conservation as well as a

recreation area. It was during his term as governor that the

land was purchased and the plans were made. Governor

Edgar made sure the state would invest to preserve the site

for future generations.

This Breathtaking

Setting

The rolling countryside, mature

timber and grassland, prime agri-

cultural land and rare hill prairie

of the site provide a bounty of

plants and wildlife. The setting is

enhanced by the natural meanders

of Cox and Panther Creeks, as

well as improvements including

new lakes, trails, roads and camp-

grounds.

The 16,550-acre site is one of the

Department of Natural Resources’

largest public access areas.

Several rare species of plants found in Illinois grow in the wild-

life area, which consist of the lady’s-slipper orchid, the savan-

na blazing star, the pale false foxglove, large-seeded mercury

and Hill’s thistle. Eighty-seven species of breeding birds have

been identified at JEPC including, most notably, the eastern

bluebird, orchard oriole and lark sparrow.

Conservation efforts at JEPC are ongoing. The Department

of Natural Resources is currently working to enhance its

forest wildlife habitat. Two man-made wetlands were

constructed in 1999 and hundreds of acres of

native grasses have been restored to

the area.

Recreation and Activities

JEPC provides a wonderful recreation area for all types of

outdoor activities. Many visitors come just to enjoy the beau-

tiful natural setting. JEPC has camping and picnicking areas

to accommodate these people. Gridley, Drake and Prairie

Lakes, along with Painter and Geiss Ponds, are equipped with

restrooms and picnic facilities making them pleasant places

to spend the day. These areas also have shelters that can be

reserved or used on a first come, first serve basis. The camp-

ground at JEPC features nine rental cabins on the shoreline

of Prairie Lake and 18 class AA sites with sewer and water

hookups. There are also 64 class A sites along with a primitive

camping area.

For the more active visitor, twenty-four miles of mountain

bike trail form a 17-mile loop, a 5-mile loop and two miles of

connecting trail. From April 16th – May 15th the trails are open

from noon to dusk. From May 16th – October 31st they remain

open from sunrise to sunset. From November 1st – April 15th

the trail is closed to mountain bikers and becomes available to

hikers. A three-mile hiking and jogging trail also loops around

Gridley Lake.

JEPC also accommodates hunters, fishers, boaters and horse-

back riders. Hunting for white-tail deer, wild turkey, mourning

dove, upland species, furbearers and squirrels is permitted

during the appropriate season. Gridley Lake, Prairie Lake and

Drake Lake offer opportunities for sport fishing, as do streams

throughout the wildlife area. Boats with trolling motors and

canoes are welcomed on Gridley and Drake Lakes. Prairie

Lake has a 10 h.p. limit and also allows sail boats. A 26-mile

equestrian trail is situated in the northwest corner of the wild-

life area. It is open from April 16th – May 15th from noon until

dusk, and from sunrise to sunset May 16th – October 31st.

JIM EDGAR PANTHER CREEK

STATE FISH & WILDLIFE AREA