Amidst the gently rolling topography of bustling Peoria is Donovan Park, a nature lover’s dream. Adjacent to the Rock Island Greenway, the park is filled with open green space and a collection of trees that tell of the property’s deep-rooted history as a savanna habitat turned farm turned golf course and back again. Trails that meander through restored prairies, young and old trees, and open no-mow areas welcome walkers, runners, and cross-country skiers (as weather permits). Donovan offers an observatory open to the public, a sculpture garden, fishing in three ponds, several picnic tables, and Cyd’s in the Park – a locally owned gourmet restaurant. Donovan is an urban gem of the Peoria Park District and an accredited Level 1 Arboretum.
Northmoor Observatory* is also located on the grounds.
Northmoor Observatory is run by the Peoria Astronomical Society. Built in 1955, the Northmoor Observatory is about half-way across Donovan Park toward Proctor Hospital. The Peoria Astronomical Society hosts free public viewings from dusk to 11:00 pm every cloudless Saturday from May-October. Cancellations due to weather will be posted online at and on the Peoria Astronomical Society’s Facebook page.
Donovan Park Sculpture Garden
Donovan Sculpture Garden is proudly supported and its organizers believe that our community will benefit from public landscape art in the parks. Their hope is to stimulate discussion about both abstract and realistic art and make sure that all ages and people from all walks of life learn about sculpture as they enjoy Peoria’s Parks. To learn more about this initiative, please visit https://donovansculpturegarden.org/
Level 1 Arboretum
Over the last several years, Peoria Park District staff have worked to apply for Arbnet Level 1 Accreditation, which marks Peoria’s first accredited arboretum. Arbnet accreditation provides the Peoria Park District with the resources needed to publicize the Donovan Park Arboretum and the importance of woody plant appreciation, knowledge, and research not only on a global scale, but also in everyone’s local green spaces. Unique trees & collections:
- Two old white oaks (Quercus alba) along the south property line have been cored and aged to approximately 230 years. There is a plan to remove invasive species and other unwanted vegetation that poses a threat to the health and vitality of these trees in the next few years.
- Several large black oaks (Quercus velutina) scattered over the property that stand out and play key roles in restoration of certain areas within the park.
- As oaks tend to suffer with regeneration issues, the old growth oaks listed above provide a perfect source for natural regeneration at Donovan Park and throughout Peoria. The ecology of the Donovan Park Arboretum offers an increasingly rare opportunity to showcase upland savanna moraine top species, as these areas are typically prime for human development. Many of the species planted at Donovan Park since 2017 have a special focus on Quercus species, to support sustainability of the species.
- Especially large percentage of planted trees are eastern white pine (Pinus strobus).