One of the pleasant surprises in our area is the Ballard Nature Center. The grounds are lovely, picnics are welcome and the trails are easy to walk and beautiful. One of the best things is the interactive area in the main building where kids can get hands on with nature...and it is all free. From the mission statement "The mission of the Ballard Nature Center is to provide high quality environmental education to students, educators, organizations, and individuals through visitor interpretation, educational displays, natural community restoration and management. Environmental education will emphasize the importance of natural communities and their associated ecosystems especially those communities typically found in southeastern Illinois." This is a hidden jewel.