VICTORIA — A new observation platform constructed at Forever Fields, a 500-acre nature habitat in Knox County, will officially open to the public Thursday.

“This new structure will increase public awareness about conservation and educate visitors about a variety of wildlife species and their habitat needs,” said Scott James, a biologist for Pheasants Forever, which owns the property. “Visitors can listen for singing birds and croaking frogs, watch wildlife, observe prairie grasses swaying in the wind, and overlook the peaceful landscape.”

The platform will also be used for educational programs periodically hosted by Pheasants Forever, the nation’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. In 2011 the organization purchased the property in Knox County with grants from a variety of sources. Soon after it began habitat restoration.

The property is at the intersection of Illinois Routes 167 and and 180 in Knox County. Visit www.ihuntil.com for a map and to see a list of rules and regulations.

“It’s prairie and wetland habitat,” said James. “Before that it was pasture, and before that it was strip mine land, so there are pits and lakes and shallow water areas. The bodies of water offer fishing and waterfowl hunting and viewing opportunities.”

The platform has an ADA-compliant handicapped-accessible ramp which leads to a 4-foot-tall wildlife viewing deck, and steps leading up another platform which rises 11-feet above the surrounding landscape. Special accommodations will be made for people with disabilities if they contact Pheasants Forever Staff online or at 660-3147, said James.

Construction on the platform started last fall. Pheasants Forever purchased the materials with funding support from the Union Sportsman’s Alliance. Volunteers provided all the labor for the project.

“One group did the first two-thirds of the project in the fall, over a couple months time, then the final one-third was finished this spring,” said James. “More than 20 people worked on it.”

Many of the volunteers were members of United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 237 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 649.