Illinois DOT’s $1 million project is a marriage of two Illinois icons: Route 66 and the monarch butterfly. For many years, IDOT has been a champion in celebrating and supporting Route 66 interest and nostalgia as the country’s Mother Road. And, as one of the state’s largest landowners, IDOT has been a leader in protecting and promoting the butterfly, the official insect of Illinois.
Through the span of a year, Illinois DOT focused on three projects. In Litchfield, IDOT added an ADA-compliant path and interpretive signs while lending its expertise to recreate native Illinois prairie friendly to pollinators. The spot is drawing renewed interest in tourism. In Elkhart, pop. 375, IDOT’s in-kind contributions and guidance helped with a similar restoration project that’s become a source of local pride and inspired a community event last summer. At the Route 66 Experience, a permanent attraction at the fairgrounds about the road’s significance, IDOT planting beds are being used by monarchs while visitors learn more about work to preserve and grow pollinator habitat throughout Illinois. By showcasing the plight of the monarch, IDOT is calling attention to the importance of pollinators in general and their necessary role in agriculture, which annually adds more than $50 billion to the state’s economy.