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Try This!

Snowshoeing   Cultures living in cold climates have relied on snowshoes for millennia. This oversized footwear can mean the difference between slogging through drifts up to your knees and floating above the fray, one with the elements.   This snowy winter we’ve been having is the perfect opportunity to try out snowshoes yourself. Today’s models aren’t your grandpa’s snowshoes. You can borrow a pair for free at the following nature centers, then head off on the nature center trails for a day of fun. Try it today!

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Did You Know?

  Snow Fleas: Unexpected life in the frozen forest by Brian Winters   Signs of life in the winter woods are easy to find. Squirrels scurry ceaselessly and birds mob the feeders. Tracks in the snow reveal mammals large and small. But while winter halts the visible activity of most insects and spiders, visit your local preserve on a sunny winter day and you may encounter the hardy little snow flea.   Look around the bases of trees, often where the snow has begun to melt. If you see what looks like pepper sprinkled all over the snow, look more closely—you may just be looking at snow fleas.

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Your Wild Animal Stories

We asked for your best sightings, and here’s what you shared   What is the most amazing, unusual or memorable thing you’ve ever witnessed a wild animal do in the forest preserves?  We asked Forest Preserve staff and our Facebook community, and you had some wild stories, mostly about birds and mammals, and many involving animals caught in the act of eating one another. A lot of stories came from our naturalists, who spend the better part of each day in the preserves.   What’s clear is that there’s a lot of cool stuff happening out there, and you can see it if you’re observant and lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

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MINDMIXER: ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS

Tell us how we can improve organized activities in the preserves   Have you checked out the Forest Preserves’ MindMixer tool yet? More than 1,000 people have signed up to propose ideas, and we are listening! In the month of January we’ll be asking you how we can improve our nature center experience, group activities and special events.

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TOMORROW IS PERMIT OPENING DAY

Sign up for ActiveNet to get a jump on the New Year   Tomorrow, January 2, the doors of the Permits office at Forest Preserves General Headquarters (536 N. Harlem Avenue in River Forest) swing open from 8 am to 4 pm to those eager to secure their favorite picnic spot for 2014.

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TRY THIS!

Hike for Fitness   Work off those holiday goodies in the Forest Preserves! Some of our nature centers offer group fitness hikes, during which naturalists resist the urge to stop and identify birds and instead maintain a brisk pace across woods and prairie.

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50 WAYS TO LEAVE THE HOUSE

The Forest Preserves are alive with fun activities all winter long, if you’re willing to brave a little cold   You hardy souls who love to throw on extra layers and go on winter adventures already know that the Forest Preserves, decked out in glittering snow and ice, are quieter and more peaceful in winter than at any other time of year—and you’ve got them mostly to yourself.

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NEW YEAR’S WISHES

by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle   I'd like to wish a Happy New Year to all of the visitors and supporters of the Forest Preserves of Cook County!

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Get Your 2014 Wall Calendar!

The Forest Preserves of Cook County 2014 Wall Calendar will soon be available, and it's gorgeous, if we do say so ourselves. This great stocking stuffer has everything: ducks, elk, wildflowers, redbelly snakes, snowscapes, birdwatchers and more.   Get yours now in downtown Chicago in the lobbies of the Cook County Administration Building, the Daley Center and the George Dunne Office Building. They will also be available after December 14 at all six of our nature centers.

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TRY THIS!

New restrooms appearing now through next spring!   Installation has begun on the first of ten new permanent toilet buildings in the forest preserves. The restroom at the Bremen Grove Forest Preserve in Oak Forest will open in December and nine other facilities will be installed in spring of 2014. We expect the new restrooms will offer great relief to some extremely eager preserve visitors.

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HAVE YOUR SAY ON MINDMIXER

Online platform opens new dialogue with the public   Want to give your two cents on the latest Forest Preserves project but can’t make public meetings? MindMixer is the newest way to make sure you’re being heard by the Forest Preserves’ decision makers.

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PRESERVING RESOURCES AT A NEW LEVEL

by Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle Last month, we launched a major effort to ensure the continued health and diversity of the natural heritage and archaeological resources of our Forest Preserves. When it’s completed in December 2014, the Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan will provide sophisticated and comprehensive guidance to our land management.

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DID YOU KNOW?

Dancing platforms once proliferated across the forest preserves.   If you’re taking a hike in the forest preserves and come across what looks like an old concrete patio, chances are you’ve discovered a former “dancing platform.” In the Forest Preserves’ early years, the District installed hundreds of these platforms to meet the demand for community dances. The platforms were so thick and heavy that when the sites lost popularity, many were left in the ground for nature to reclaim.   Photo: Date unknown, Forest Preserves of Cook County Archives

FOREST PRESERVES NAMED WILDLIFE REFUGE PARTNER

One of the first eight in nation to connect cities with National Wildlife Refuges   The National Wildlife Refuge System is a constellation of more than 150 million acres of preserved land across the United States, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. While a surprising number of these wildlife refuges aren’t far from urban centers, many are in wilder, more remote areas. With 80% of Americans now living in cities, the Service began to recognize that to maintain support for a strong refuge system it must connect with the millions of people living in cities. Thanks to a new partnership, the Forest Preserves will serve as a vital link in that connection, and further its own mission at the same time.

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PICNIC PERMITS GO ONLINE

New system will make getting your permit faster and easier   On January 2, Permit Opening Day, the Forest Preserves will be offering a new online system that will streamline the permitting process. The system, called ActiveNet, will allow patrons to apply electronically for a wide range of Forest Preserves permits.

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