Thanks to a $100,000 gift from Marquis Energy, LLC, in Hennepin, Illinois, TWI will be able to complete a significant new trail at the Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge. When finished in 2016, the 2.7-mile Marquis Oak Ridge Trail will open the Refuge’s interior to the public for the first time and more than double the site’s existing trail system.
Access to the new trail will be from the levee along the north end of the Dixon Refuge, where a small parking area will be created. Interpretive signage along the trail will guide visitors through a range of high-quality restored habitats, including wet and mesic prairie, wet meadow, hemi-marsh, and open water. It will be the first trail suitable for bicyclists as well as hikers at the Refuge.
“The diversity of flora through this stretch is extraordinary, and much of it is different from what people see on the Refuge’s southeastern side, where the existing trails are,” said Gary Sullivan, TWI’s senior ecologist.
The new trail will terminate in a short loop through Oak Ridge, a rare oak savanna currently being restored between the arms of Hennepin and Hopper lakes. A new viewing platform at one edge of the oak savanna will provide up-close views of a recently restored open-water area that is already attracting a variety of waterfowl.
Jason Marquis, Marquis Energy’s Chief Operating Officer and an area resident, said, “It is important to our family to be good corporate citizens and give back to the community that has treated us so well. We believe the trail offers a unique opportunity to our employees and the community at large to enjoy what nature has to offer at the Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge.”
The Marquis family has been supporting TWI’s work for almost a decade, and this gift represents a dramatic increase in their commitment to the Refuge. In recent years Marquis Energy has become the world's leading sustainable fuels producer. A major expansion now under construction will double the size of the company’s Hennepin facility.
TWI Executive Director Paul Botts said, “We’re thrilled and humbled by Marquis’s generous support and their confidence in us. The Marquis Oak Ridge Trail will be a big step in growing the public use and enjoyment of the Dixon Refuge. Now visitors will be able to get out into the middle and have a 360-degree experience of this amazing place without needing to bring a canoe or kayak.”