By: Josh West
Approximately eight miles from Carbondale sits Touch of Nature. This outdoor space offers a lot to students of Southern Illinois and to any outdoor enthusiast in the surrounding area. Hiking trails, fishing ponds and cabins fill up the entire wooded area with plenty of activities for a weekend getaway. For our architecture program, Touch of Nature has really been a helping hand with giving the students a new learning experience; especially for our Architecture 242 Woods class for our sophomore students. In past years, the class has taken on a few different projects. The largest project to date is the amphitheater that looks over little grassy lake. This site really engages with every visitor with the woods and water and gives a new learning experience.
One of the newest projects that our current class will be taking on is the rocky ledge trail. This is one of the newest trails out at Touch of Nature and it is almost finished. The trail will start at camp two beach and meander up and through the entire site of the cliffs. This trail will be used primarily for a learning experience to get kids outdoors and understanding things that some may not have seen or done before. A leader from Touch of Nature will guide the kids stopping along the way at multiple kiosks that the Architecture 242 students will be designing. At the end of the trail, the students will end at the largest site along the trail; campsite location. With being the largest site, this space will have to have the most program. Sometimes there will be thirty to forty students, so being able to use the space to the fullest is a must. One of the biggest challenges we are going to face with this site is leveling the entire site to become a better working site. From the top to the bottom of the site is roughly a three-foot drop in elevation so creating a good retaining wall around the site is a must. Our goal for the retaining wall is to have an octagonal shape. We will dig a small trench with a layer of rock and concrete and then finally our landscape timbers. This will give a good feel to the entire site. Another thing we have to put into this site is functionality with the program. By having a campfire and students to feed. There has to be a food preparation station to were the leader of the students and lay out the food and prepare it to cook. This will include locking lockers to one, be able to keep food out there at all times, and to keep animals from getting into the locker. Finally, wood storage is very important. As wet wood is not good for a campfire, we will be placing wood storage within the site to keep the wood dry and ready for use whenever it is needed.
This site can be a very important piece to not just the trail walkers but any hikers or cabin visitors at Touch of Nature. The space will not only be used for a campfire but an entire new learning space about the history of the area and Touch of Nature. Overall, the site will be used to its fullest and will hopefully give each and every visitor a new outlook on nature.