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Someone You Should Know: Prairie Guardian Jan Smith

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Jan Smith has tended a swath of prairie plants and grass in Carol Stream for nearly 20 years. (CBS)

Jan Smith has tended a swath of prairie plants and grass in Carol Stream for nearly 20 years. (CBS)

Harry Porterfield Harry Porterfield
Harry Porterfield co-anchors the 11 AM news with Roseanne Tellez and...
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CAROL STREAM, Ill. (CBS) – For nearly 20 years, she’s been tending a park to preserve part of Illinois.

Jan Smith is someone you should know, CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield reports.

It’s a park filled with grasses and plants from when our state was mostly prairie land.

Known as the Land of Lincoln, Illinois has another name: the Prairie State. This tall grass is the reason why. Now, a remnant of the past, the grass and other prairie plants, are being cultivated by Smith in a Carol Stream park.

“The prairie has some features that have made Illinois what it is. The roots of the plants go so far deep, and they add organic matter to the soil and that makes the soil rich,” she says.

Located at the corner of Kuhn and Lies Road in the suburb, the park is a reminder of the time when oceans of grass swept the central part of the state. Since 1993, Smith has been tending the park as a volunteer hoping to preserve the history of the prairie and to provide an education about its importance.

“You should not fertilize a prairie, and you don’t have to water a prairie,” she says. “It replenishes the water, it replenishes the soil. It takes carbon dioxide out of the air, which we have too much of now.”

An ardent environmentalist and believer in global warming, it’s not surprising that because of her work with prairie grass the northeast corner of this intersection has been named the Jan Smith Park.

“This is really a very small project. My goal here is that it would be educational, that people would start to see the beauty of it,” she says. “When you know something about it, you look at it in a different way.”

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