The history of Ballard Nature Center originates with the nature center's namesake Mr. Ernest "Ernie" Ballard. Ernie Ballard had a dream of creating a nature center for everyone to enjoy and learn about nature. His 210-acre parcel of land east of Altamont, Illinois became the site of what is now the Ballard Nature Center.
Originally, the site was deeded to the Effingham County Soil & Water Conservation District. The District realized the nature center would be better served as an independent 501(C)3 organization and subsequently deeded the property to a newly formed board. On August 19, 1999, Ballard Nature Center board was chartered as a non-profit organization, which better equipped the board to pursue and secure grants and develop and manage the site as a "Nature Center."
Since that time, Ballard Nature Center has developed into a fully functional nature education site with a visitor center, staff, programs, activities, and numerous miles of trails. Ballard Nature Center continues to grow and provides quality environmental nature education experiences and invites visitors to explore the natural world around them.
The mission of Ballard Nature Center is to provide high quality environmental education to students, educators, organizations, and individuals through visitor interpretation, educational displays, natural community restoration and management. Environmental education will emphasize the importance of natural communities and their associated ecosystems especially those communities typically found in southeastern Illinois.