Event & Programming Partnerships

people gathering around a speaker at an event

The Forest Preserves of Cook County is seeking proposals from Cook County individuals and organizations to partner with the Conservation & Experiential Programming (CEP) Department to provide public programs that educate and activate the public to become lovers, users, stewards and advocates of and for the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

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About the Conservation & Experiential Programming Department

The mission of the Conservation & Experiential Programming (CEP) Department is to connect diverse audiences with nature through a wide range of educational and outdoor recreation experiences, inspiring the protection and enjoyment of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s natural areas and the plants and animals that live in them.

To achieve its mission, the CEP Department provides public programming and community engagement for the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Public programming focuses on education and outdoor recreation opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy the forest preserves. Examples of public programming include nature and conservation education, outdoor adventures, camping, paddling, swim lessons at our three aquatic centers, and cultural and seasonal special events. Community engagement focuses on developing relationships with residents to connect them to the Forest Preserves and to energize their active use, stewardship, and advocacy of and for the preserves.

The CEP Department’s public programming is focused at six nature centers, three aquatic centers, five new and revitalized campgrounds, and at sites with new or recently upgraded facilities such as Eggers Grove, Dan Ryan Woods, Thatcher Woods, Rolling Knolls, Cummings Square, Caldwell Woods and Swallow Cliff. Additionally, the CEP Department develops and hosts numerous special events and outdoor adventure recreation activities throughout the Forest Preserves.

The CEP Department has aligned its educational and outdoor recreation programming with the Forest Preserves’ Next Century Conservation Plan (NCCP). The NCCP is an ambitious and visionary strategy that lays out a set of bold actions to ensure that the Forest Preserves will continue to thrive and that the people of Cook County will treasure and sustain this amazing resource now and in the future. There are four goals outlined in the NCCP that are centered on nature, people, economics and leadership:

  1. Provide programs in the preserves that emphasize the benefits of nature for healthy people and healthy communities.
  2. Invite, excite and engage diverse visitors to the Forest Preserves from all walks of life.
  3. Make the Forest Preserves accessible to all.
  4. Educate visitors and the community about the Forest Preserves’ natural treasures.

Together with partners, the CEP Department is focused on advancing these four goals through community outreach processes, development of new partnerships, and the continuation of experiential programs delivered by staff and partners that expose the community to the benefits and wonders of nature.

The CEP Department continues to develop and implement a diverse program menu even with limited staff. The challenge is to develop relationships with partners at the local level who can assist with programming and who will become long-term advocates, stewards and ambassadors of the Forest Preserves.

Submit a Proposal

To address these challenges, the CEP Department is seeking proposals from individuals and organizations interested in partnering on expanding existing programs or on developing new programs. If you or your organization have a programming idea that you would like to propose we are now accepting partnership proposals.

In addition to providing space or a location for your proposed event or program; the Forest Preserves has a limited amount of funding (under $5,000) to support some mission-aligned partnership proposals.

Pre-proposal Application

If your pre-proposal is selected, a formal proposal application will be provided. You should expect an initial response back from the Forest Preserves within two weeks. The initial response is the beginning of a conversation about your idea.

Contact experience.nature@cookcountyil.gov with any questions.

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    Current Event Locations

    In order to understand some of the Forest Preserves’ programming strategies, marketing processes, regional spaces, etc., please see explore the resources below, in addition to our online events calendar.

    Nature Centers


    Aquatic Centers

    Other Locations with Frequent Events

    Sample Annual Forest Preserves Events

    • Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Dan Ryan Woods
    • Winter Exploration Days, various sites
    • Maple Syrup Festival, River Trail Nature Center
    • Earth Day Events, various sites
    • Spring Celebration, Trailside Museum
    • Nature Block Party, Eggers Grove
    • Migratory Bird Day, various sites
    • Nature Is Accessible, Little Red Schoolhouse
    • Explore the Forest, Crabtree Nature Center
    • Juneteenth Celebration, Sand Ridge Nature Center
    • Beaubien Woods Celebration, Beaubien Woods
    • Insect Fest, Cummings Square
    • Kids Fest, Wampum Lake
    • Teen Exploration Day, Powderhorn Lake
    • Hummingbird Festival, Sagawau Environmental Learning Center
    • Migrating Monarchs, Trailside Museum
    • Party for the Preserves, various sites
    • Stars, Stories & S’mores, various sites
    • Fall Fest, River Trail Nature Center
    • Art Fair, Little Red Schoolhouse
    • Settlers’ Day, Sand Ridge Nature Center
    • Christmas Past, Sand Ridge Nature Center