Blog

Broken Refrigerator? Busted Hair Dryer? You Can Recycle That!

In an effort to keep unwanted appliances, electronics and other non-biodegradable objects out of landfills, the Forest Preserves of Cook County has designated two locations as all-inclusive recycling drop-off centers. Two southwest zone nature centers, Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs and Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont, now have large-scale collection containers ready and waiting to accept your recyclable items.   And you can recycle a lot more than you think! Drop off your outdated or broken computer monitors, printers and peripherals; electronics such as phones and radios; and household appliances like hair dryers, irons and coffee makers. Even large appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers and stoves can be recycled. (Click here for a full list of accepted items).   The collection centers are located in the nature center parking lots and will maintain the same hours as the nature centers. The containers are unmanned; however, if you need assistance, please call the number posted on the container door and a nature center staff member can lend a hand.   Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center is located at 9800 Willow Springs Rd, Willow Springs. Sagawau Environmental Learning Center is located at 12545 W 111th St, Lemont.

Did You Know? Milkweed Hosts a Microhabitat

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed. Photo by Irene Flebbe. Milkweed plants (Asclepias sp.) of many species are now in bloom all around the Chicago region. If you observe these plants closely, you'll discover a microhabitat full of insects that depend on milkweed for their diet, reproduction and more.

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Centennial History Series: First Catch — Initial Fish & Water Management in the Forest Preserves

Fishing, ca. 1930s-1940s by Natalie Bump Vena   The Forest Preserve District’s early leaders viewed fishing as a key way to introduce urban residents to Cook County’s plentiful open land. But they faced some obstacles in bringing their vision to life. The streams that flowed through the holdings were polluted and the forest preserves lacked fishable ponds and lakes. In a series of projects aimed to protect public health and facilitate transportation, District administrators partnered with state and municipal governments to clean streams and create lakes in the forest preserves. Beginning in the late 1930s, District staff also received assistance from the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Illinois Department of Conservation to stock those bodies of water with desirable species of game fish.

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Youth Outdoor Ambassadors Program Preps Teens for the Future

How many teens does it take to plan and execute a 500 person event with canoeing, archery, art making and a zip line? Just six—if they are Youth Outdoor Ambassadors.   This new group of six teens, started with a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program, aims to not only get teens outdoors, but to help them build the valuable skills they will need to succeed in the future.

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A Day in the Life of a Hummingbird

Grab a passport and see the world through the eyes of our region’s tiniest bird.   Our annual Hummingbird Festival takes place Saturday, August 16, 2014 at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center near Lemont. The fest runs from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm and is packed with self-guided activities, games, arts and crafts and new learning experiences.   Upon arrival, you will receive a passport to migrate as a ruby-throated hummingbird (also called hummers). This passport will guide you through a total of seven stations, each one shedding light on the life and migration of your hummingbird.

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Surprise on the Line: Reeling in an Eel

On an ordinary morning, an ordinary fisherman (with an ordinary hook and line) caught an extraordinary fish. This approximately 30 inch, four to five pound American eel found in Orland Park’s Tampier Lake is only the third eel discovered in Forest Preserves waters in the last 30 years.   A rare find, but the truly amazing part of this story is how it may have traveled here.  

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Did You Know? That Orange Leafless Plant on the Prairie is Rope Dodder

Rope dodder, Cuscuta glomerata, is an unusual looking parasitic plant that will soon bloom in moist prairies throughout our preserve system. This plant develops roots as a seedling, but once its minute suckers attach to a host plant, the lower portion (including the roots) withers away.   Rope dodder looks like bright orange spaghetti; it is essentially leafless and completely reliant on its host plant for energy. It is frequently found in prairies, especially after a prescribed burn. Ecologists suspect that seed germination may be stimulated by fire.

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Centennial History Series: Truck Gardens and Tent Colonies — Early Uses of the Forest Preserves

Tents and firewood at Dam No. 2 on the Des Plaines River in the 1920s. by Natalie Bump Vena   In the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s first decades, the preserves became a place where people supplemented their incomes and lived off the land. In the wintertime, they cut ice from ponds and purchased cheap firewood chopped from fallen trees. In the summertime, people harvested vegetables from gardens and even resided in the forest preserves. Officials increasingly realized that this intensive use damaged the natural resources they were mandated to protect. So by the late 1930s, they began curtailing long-term and extractive activities on forest preserve land.   Families facing hardship appear to have sought temporary shelter in the forest preserves—sometimes by invitation. In 1922, The Chicago Defender reported that thousands of Chicagoans “saved rent” over the summer by living in “tent colonies” located in the forest preserves.[i] In 1921, the District described these dwellings in romantic terms, writing, “there is a growing tendency on the part of many families to pitch week-end camps, while others remain during longer periods, some passing the entire summer under the shade of the great woods.”[ii] In 1920, District commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution to provide housing in the preserves for people affected by “a devastating tornado” that had swept through western and northwestern Cook County.[iii]  

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EnvironMENTORS Get Students Into Nature

This spring, Ms. Sharp’s seventh grade class at Albany Park Multicultural Academy had a unique opportunity to step out of the classroom and into nature to learn how their actions impact the world around them.   Thanks to EnvironMENTORS Chicago Outreach (ECO) founders—and recent college graduates—Jamie Herget and Christine Chung, these students embarked on a five-week journey covering environmental stewardship, native and invasive species, urban wildlife and outdoor recreation.

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Create a Lasting Memory in the Forest Preserves

Dedicate a tree or bench and make a positive impact on the environment. Those seeking an environmentally friendly way to honor a loved one, commemorate an event or even mark a new beginning, now have a new option in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. With a donation to the Forest Preserve Foundation, families and individuals have the opportunity to dedicate a tree or bench that can be cherished for years to come. These gifts go even further by supporting the Foundation's efforts to inspire children through education and outdoor adventure programs in their local preserves.  

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Forest Preserves Acquires Horizon Farms

Four hundred-acre property is Forest Preserves’ largest single acquisition since 1968.   In early May, a judge approved the Forest Preserves’ purchase of Horizon Farms, a 397-acre equestrian estate in the far northwest suburb of Barrington Hills. The purchase was the Forest Preserves’ largest single acquisition since 1968, and brings our total acreage to 69,123. (To see how the preserves have grown over the last century, click here for an infographic.)   “For 100 years, the mission of the Forest Preserves has been to protect open space in Cook County for the benefit of all our residents,” Forest Preserves General Superintendent Arnold Randall said. “This parcel of land was identified as highly desirable in our most recent land acquisition plan, for its large tracts of open space, wetlands and native bird habitat, as well as its proximity to Spring Creek and Crabtree Preserves. Because the property had been in foreclosure proceedings for a number of years, this opportunity was financially within reach as well.”  

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Centennial History Series: Early Prairie Restoration in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

An early prescribed burn at Crabtree Nature Center in the 1960s. by Natalie Bump Vena   During the summer months, beautiful prairies bloom all over the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Many of these natural communities thrive today because Preserves staff and volunteer stewards worked for decades to restore and maintain them.  

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Pace Launches Express Buses to Brookfield Zoo

Three new summer routes connect new communities to this Forest Preserve gem   Pace, Brookfield Zoo, and the Forest Preserves of Cook County recently joined together to launch convenient new summer transit connections to and from the zoo.   On Memorial Day, May 26, Pace began operating routes 770 and 771, which travel between the zoo and the CTA’s Blue, Green and Pink lines. On Saturday, June 7, Route 772 begins service connecting the 95th/Dan Ryan CTA Red Line station with the zoo. All three routes will operate until August 30.  

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New Summer Hours at Nature Centers

Open until 8 pm on Thursdays, and open Fridays   We are excited to announce NEW hours at five of our six nature centers this summer, June 1 through August 31!  

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ABC7’s Roz Varon Highlights the Forest Preserves of Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Roz Varon spent several spring days in the Forest Preserves of Cook County to produce this three-part series that aired on ABC7 this week.

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