The Barnhart Prairie and Preserve is located on a 5 generation farm originally bought by Harry Grove in 1916 for his daughter Jessica Grove and her new husband Henry Herbert Barnhart. Herb and Jesse farmed the land for decades and eventually their son Henry Harrison Barnhart (Harry) and his wife Pat Barnhart took over as a young couple. Harry continued the stewardship for the environment and the land that his father started but he also developed a real passion for the native short stem prairie of central Illinois. Donald Barnhart, one of Harry's sons, took a class while in high school on native prairie and introduced his father to it. They both began volunteering as did Brett Barnhart, another son ,and Jim Zimmerman, David Monk and Theo Gray among others in locating and transporting patches of native prairie in the area. As Harry was in the final stages of dying from cancer he decided to have 80 acres of the farm put into an easement for prairie restoration with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District with Leon Wendte being instrumental in that process. Mary Kay Solecki who also shared passion for the prairie and was crucial in getting the Prairie designated as a nature preserve. Special thanks to Bruce Stikkers for his dedicated leadership while working for the CCSWCD as well as serving now as burn chief and Jonathan Manuel who helped get several grants which led to the parking area, gates, and picnic table.
In 1987 prairie restoration was begun on the Barnhart-Grove farm. It began with a government sponsored ten year set aside program for highly erodible soils and expanded in 1998 through a
C-2000 conservation easement for the purpose of restoring farm land back to prairie. At the same time select local railroads and patches of native prairie were being threatened and destroyed and seeds and soils from those locations were brought by a farm grain truck to the Barnhart farm for planting and were the bases for the restoration. Many many Champaign County community leaders and volunteers in the nature world were instrumental in this original work and they can not be thanked enough for their vision and hard work.