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Jan 12, 2013

Forest Preserve District of Cook County Releases its Camping Master Plan


January 12, 2013 – Forest Preserve District of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and General Superintendent Arnold Randall today released the District’s new camping master plan.


“Our goal was to create a camping program that showcases the rich heritage of our preserves and celebrates the cultural and natural landmarks within our county,” President Preckwinkle said. “Through camping, we hope to introduce the next generation of nature lovers to the natural wonders that are just outside their backdoor.”


The master plan outlines a variety of offerings to serve youth, families, groups and individuals of all ages, interests and backgrounds. The plan envisions a series of diverse camping experiences by revitalizing existing locations, creating new destinations, and developing special event campsites near nature centers.


Public input played a major role in the development of the camping master plan, and the District hosted a series of open meetings and focus groups along with an online survey and other direct outreach. The proposals presented in the camping plan are concepts. Architectural and engineering plans will be developed for each of the priority sites in the spring of 2013. Public participation will continue to play a role as these operational plans are developed.


“Cook County is blessed to have all this wonderful property in the Forest Preserve District and our scouting families are excited about the expanded camping opportunities that this plan creates,” said Chuck Dobbins, CEO of the Boy Scouts of America, Chicago Region.


“Whether you live in North Lawndale, South Lawndale, Pilsen or Back of the Yards, many of our young people in the inner city don’t get the chance to leave their neighborhood, let alone the city, let alone come to the great assets here in the Forest Preserves. They need to discover that there is an opportunity to be introduced to nature and to leadership opportunities through camping,” said Raul Raymundo, CEO of the Resurrection Project, a Pilsen-based community organization.


Work is expected to begin in the summer, with the initial sites completed by the end of 2013.


The plan is available online at and will be presented to District’s Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, January 15.


Priority Sites

  • Camp Reinberg (existing) – Palatine

The master plan calls for eight new tent cabins, twenty new tent sites and a toilet/shower facility in addition to the existing dining hall. Camp Reinberg connects to an existing trail system.


  • Camp Sullivan (existing) – Tinley Park

The plan for Camp Sullivan recommends renovating three existing bunkhouses, constructing twelve new tent cabins and forty tent sites, renovating the historic barn and adding toilets/shower facilities. A new entry further north on Oak Park Avenue will help the camp feel more isolated from the road and will also provide a smoother arrival experience. The campground will connect into existing trails and provide more opportunities to use the historic barn. The adjacent Camp Falcon will be merged with Camp Sullivan, creating one cohesive camping program.


  • Camp Pine Woods (new) – Northbrook

Camp Pine Woods, located in an open site between Beck Lake and the Des Plaines River, is conceived to accommodate organized groups as well as families. The plan proposes a new bunkhouse, eight new tent cabins, twenty new tent sites and new toilet/shower facilities. The camp will provide an alternative for boy scouts to Camp Dan Beard (which will be closed) and will connect to the existing trail system. A new canoe launch and activities, such as a ropes courses, may also be built.


  • Camp Bullfrog Lake/Pulaski Woods (new) – Willow Springs

Bullfrog Lake Campground is a new site for camping. Eight tent cabins and twelve tent sites are recommended, as well as a toilet/shower building. Bullfrog Lake will focus on primitive camping and connect to existing amenities at nearby Maple Lake where there is boat rental, picnic shelters and trailheads. There is existing parking, access to multi-use trails and trail connection to the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center.


  • Shabonna Woods (new) – South Holland

Shabbona Woods is a former picnic grove that recently closed. Eight tent cabins, twelve tent sites and a toilet facility are proposed. The campground will be primarily used for environmental outreach. It will be closely connected to Sand Ridge Nature Center and nearby Green Lake Aquatic Center.


In addition to the improvements, the longer term vision in the Camp Master Plan is to enhance these five sites to add some family cabins, and additional dining and recreation activities, depending on the success of the initial phase and available funding.


Secondary Sites

More modest investment would occur at “second tier” sites, which provide opportunities for expansion that can meet demands as the camping program gains momentum.


  • Camp Kiwanis – Willow Springs

Camp Kiwanis was once a camping outpost in the Palos area and sits across the road from the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center. Adjacent to one of the District regional maintenance centers, the site is currently used to access the equestrian trail system. Primary features would include trailer parking, and tent camping facilities specially conceived to be equestrian- friendly.


  • Camping along the North Branch of the Chicago River and the Des Plaines River

These camps are envisioned to be a series of sites that would be more primitive, less developed and low impact seasonal camps.  These camps would promote paddling or hiking along river banks with the possibility of overnight multi-day excursions.  Two possible camp locations include:


  • Skokie Lagoons – Glencoe/Winnetka North Branch of the Chicago River

The island in the lagoons offers a unique overnight experience for low-impact, seasonal camping. Tent pads of varying sizes would accommodate one to three tents in clusters.


  • Des Plaines River – primitive camp sites (at Thatcher Woods inRiver Forest, Columbia Woods in Willow Springs, or other river sites)

The concept is for a small cluster of primitive tent sites at strategic stops along the Des Plaines River to provide an overnight camping experience for paddlers.




The District’s camping projects will be included in the 2013 – 2017 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), an annual five-year projection of infrastructure investment needs and priorities. The draft of the CIP is available for download and review on the District’s website at


The draft of the CIP will be presented before a hearing of the Forest Preserve District’s Capital Development Committee at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 118 N. Clark in Chicago, 5th Floor board room. The public is invited to attend the hearing and to provide testimony. Public comments on the CIP are also being accepted through the website until January 21, 2013. The final CIP will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners at the Board Meeting on February 4, 2013.


This year’s update will outline capital projects that will benefit from new General Obligation Bond funding issued this past June. Most of the projects included in the 2013 update were identified as part of comprehensive plans or assessments for improvement to the District’s camps, recreation facilities, buildings and bridges. Habitat restoration also remains one of the priority areas for capital investment.

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