The Nell's Woodland Foundation is an organization dedicated to facilitating a meaningful and connected relationship to nature through programs that support stewardship in the areas of Ecology, Health & Wellness, and the Arts, all of which will utilize inspiration supported by the 60-acre preserve located in Ottawa, IL. By connecting with nature, visitors will benefit from the powerful, healing, and inspirational aspects of nature.


To help bring Nells Woodlands’ goals and aspirations to fruition, GZA conducted several site assessments to fully articulate the existing conditions, document important characteristics of the steep ravines, and identify ecotypes within the woodlands that will form the basis of numerous educational features.


Working closely with Serena Sturm Architects, the Master Plan identifies buildings, bridges, trails, overlooks, outdoor spaces, healing gardens, passive recreation, nature-based activities, and places for reflection that connect visitors to the landscape. At the Ecology Center and Wellness Center, visitors will find outdoor spaces that are extensions of the interior classrooms, kitchens, and lecture halls. The outdoor spaces incorporate raised beds for food production, native plant gardens, and seat walls that emulate natural stone outcroppings found in the ravines. Walking trails through the oak woodland lead to ravine overlooks that offer quiet places to rest, read, and rejuvenate the spirit. For those looking for more active programs, a high ropes course in the woodland will allow visitors to ‘walk’ through the canopies of century old white and red oaks.


The entire development is seen as an asset to Ottawa; a place where people can learn about nature, express themselves through art, and develop relationships with the environment that begin to heal through the inspiration of nature.