Blog

The Importance of Funding Restoration

by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle   In my 2015 proposed budget for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, which is currently available for review and public comment, I recommend the allocation of $6 million toward landscape restoration and related projects. This is by far the largest single line item in the budget, and it’s the second consecutive year we’ve allocated this amount to habitat restoration.

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Try This: Celebrate Halloween in the Preserves

Looking for family fun this fall?   The Forest Preserves offers many fun and spooky ways to celebrate Halloween throughout Cook County. Check out the events below to find a new (and unique) way to get your family in the Halloween spirit!

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Wellness in the Woods

Free membership to your 69,000-acre outdoor gym   Would you rather bike in a basement, or ride a trail through a prairie in bloom? Hit the gym stair-climber, or enjoy the striking view from the top of a hill? Do yoga in a cramped room, or under a breathtaking sunset?   Starting this fall, we’ll help you move your workout into nature with our new Wellness in the Woods initiative. This year-round fitness program will provide three introductory classes per season, held throughout Cook County.

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Palos Trails Get Test Makeover

New signage to make navigation easier—try it and take our survey   With more than 40 miles of intersecting trails, the 15,000-acre Palos Preserve complex near Willow Springs can sometimes be a challenge to navigate. That’s why we’ve chosen Palos to test out a new signage system we hope will make exploring this vast preserve just a bit easier—especially for those less familiar with our trails or not gifted with an especially good internal compass.   If it works at Palos, we’ll evaluate it for use at other complex trails across the forest preserves. We hope you’ll give it a try and tell us what you think.

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North Branch Trail Extension Completed

Woodland path links two major trail systems   On September 13, the Forest Preserves and Chicago Botanic Garden officially opened a new mile-long extension of the northern end of the North Branch Trail. The new path connects two major bike routes, the North Branch Trail and the Green Bay Trail.  

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Winter Fish Kills Take Toll

Tuma Lake opening delayed indefinitely   It’s hidden below the surface, but proof of last winter’s bitter weather is still on display in a handful of Forest Preserve lakes and ponds.

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Millennium Reserve Guide Now Available

Explore southeast Cook County and beyond   For those who aren’t from there, the Calumet region can be a bit of a mystery—a blur of industry, neighborhoods, wetlands and dunes viewed from the expressway. Now an exciting new guidebook, Explore the Millennium Reserve and Greater Calumet: A Natural and Cultural Guide to the Region from Bronzeville to the Indiana Dunes, provides new portals into this intriguing place.  

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Volunteer Spotlight: Seed Collecting

Every autumn, many native plants express their diversity through seed. Little bluestem seeds are bright white, and light as feathers. The seeds of Kalm’s brome hang from the stem, full and graceful. Rose hips are bright red and hard as stones.   And each autumn, many of these seeds find themselves the target of calmly obsessed volunteers, who collect them to aid habitat restoration efforts.  

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Centennial History Series: Aldo Leopold and the Forest Preserves

On the short list of great environmental thinkers, Aldo Leopold is near the top, next to John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. Leopold’s famous collection of essays, A Sand County Almanac, is heralded today as one of the seminal texts of twentieth century conservation. Less well known is that Leopold formed personal and professional relationships with Cook County forest preserve staff during the last decade of his life and had a direct influence on the structure and philosophy of the Forest Preserve District. Leopold passed away in 1948 and A Sand County Almanac was published posthumously in 1949.  

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Orland Grassland Restoration Marks Milestone

On September 6, Orland Grassland celebrated a major milestone, the completion of a massive five-year restoration project by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Over the course of the $7.7 million project, the Corps removed more than 400 acres of invasive trees and shrubs across the 960-acre preserve, seeded hundreds of acres with native plant seed and planted more than 50,000 native plants. It removed or disabled 12.5 miles of drain tiles, allowing water to return to the site to create life-sustaining wetlands.

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Awards Point to Progress

by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle   Over the past several years, the Forest Preserves has received a number of awards for high-quality work across its departments. Three recent awards point toward a promising trend, and are particularly worth talking about.

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Creative Platforms Breed Osprey Success

Watching an osprey soar overhead is a breathtaking experience. These grand birds can reach up to two feet in length and display a six-foot wingspan—a striking sight when silhouetted against a bright blue sky. While once scarce in the region, spotting these birds in Cook County is no longer a rare experience thanks to some repurposed electric poles and a little engineering.   Even with such remarkable proportions, ospreys were still vulnerable to the widespread use of DDT that began in the 1940s. The toxic effects of DDT and other pesticides resulted in many ospreys producing nonviable or infertile eggs, leading to a significant decline in osprey populations during the following decades.

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Enhancing Our Preserves for the Next 100 Years

If you’ve been out in the forest preserves lately, you may have encountered a sign that read: “Enhancing Our Preserves for the Next 100 Years.” As we celebrate our centennial, we are breaking ground on a number of projects throughout the preserves to help restore native ecosystems, enhance facilities and add exciting new possibilities.  

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Powwow Celebrates the Native Culture Thriving in Cook County

Before you are close enough to see the dance or smell the food, you hear the drum. At every powwow, the steady beat of the drum creates the “Heartbeat of Mother Earth” for dancers and visitors alike. This year’s 61st Annual Chicago Powwow, held September 13 and 14 at Busse Woods, will be no different.   The American Indian Center (AIC) holds powwows from spring to fall each year, but their Annual Chicago Powwow is their largest, celebrating more than 150 tribes from across the U.S. and Canada. The event, which drew over 10,000 people last year, features dance exhibitions and competitions, an arts and crafts marketplace and one of your only chances to sample Native American food in Illinois.  

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Preserves and Abandoned Pets an Unhealthy Mix

A pet store goldfish may not last long under the care of a young child, but it can often thrive in a local forest preserve pond. Goldfish are prolific reproducers and bottom feeders that can quickly disrupt an aquatic ecosystem.   Both state and county law prohibit residents from abandoning pets or releasing nuisance animals outside, but a variety of exotic species are still found in preserves each year. “A lot of people think they are setting these pets free to be in their natural environment. But the reality is, these animals don’t belong here,” said Forest Preserves fisheries biologist Steve Silic. “Animals purchased in pet stores typically are not native to this exact area, because it is illegal to sell wild, native animals in Illinois,” he explained.  

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Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County