When people think of a state park, they often imagine significant or unique natural features that warrant the land to be protected for posterity. First-time visitors to James "Pate" Philip (formerly Tri-County) State Park may initially wonder what the area's specific feature is. After all, the land is predominantly old farmland that had been tilled and grazed for year. The north branch of Brewester Creek flows through the property, but most of the streambed had been channeled to move water away from the former agricultural field. Along the north boundary of James "Pate" Phillip State Park, starting in the east, a row of houses rises up like a wall against a sea of grasses. Further west along the boundary is an active gravel pit followed by the new Bartlett Park District sport field, and to the west of the park, across Route 25, is a landfill that is in the process of being closed. However, the significance of James "Pate" Phillip State Park clearly appears after taking a closer look. First, the mere fact that this amount of land is preserved and protected from further development is significant. This land adds to the large block of open space to the south, which is currently preserved as the 3,432- acre Pratt's Wayne Woods Forest Preserve. Together, both spaces significantly improve the integrity of the natural processes throughout the region providing corridors that facilitate animal movement and seed dispersal. In addition, this area enables breeding populations of animals such as sandhill cranes, herons and Blanding's turtles to find undisturbed habitat to raise their offspring. And with any large block of preserved land, there is a potential for a higher diversity of animals and plants to exist, meaning more species to participate in the food web and water cycle. Second, this land contains the remnants of one of the most diverse natural systems that ever graced the Illinois landscape, the tall grass prairie and its associated communities. Hidden among the overused landscape are pieces of a puzzle that represent what once was a rich tapestry of life. A remnant wetland also managed to survive in the center of this park. This wetland is home to an Illinois endangered species, the dwarf bur reed. This fact alone warranted this wetland to be listed as an Illinois Wetland Reserve in 1990.

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