Caldwell Preserves Vision Plan & Improvements

The Caldwell Woods Warming Shelter building
The Caldwell Woods Warming Shelter will be restored as a "wellness and welcome center."

The Forest Preserves is making both short-term and long-term investments at the Caldwell Preserves—Caldwell Woods, Bunker Hill, Sydney Yates Flatwoods and Edgebrook Woods. In 2022, the Connecting People to Nature Challenge will showcase what the Caldwell Preserves offer, aiming to encourage local residents to connect with nature and local groups to partner with the Forest Preserves to improve this forest preserve.

Additionally, the Forest Preserves is developing a 10-year vision plan for the Caldwell Preserves that will help guide improvements to existing buildings and amenities, as well as longer-term plans for investing in visitor amenities, promoting restoration efforts, and cultivating local relationships.

On this page:

Connecting People to Nature Challenge

The Forest Preserves is investing $1 million across three locations in Cook County through our Connecting People to Nature Challenge. How should we improve Caldwell Woods & Bunker Hill to better serve your community? What kind of events and activities would you like to be involved in there?

More details and opportunities to get involved coming soon.

Contact us at or call 708-771-1573 to be involved in future meetings and feedback opportunities.

Planned Improvements

Forest Preserve staff gathered preliminary feedback about the Caldwell Preserves through two virtual open houses held in summer 2021. These outreach efforts provided fresh perspective to build on a focus group meeting that was held in 2015 with representatives from volunteer ecological stewardship groups and the Village of Niles. Exhibits showing plans for immediate improvements—funded through a state Park and Recreation Capital (PARC) grant, program—are posted below.

The PARC grant awarded from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in spring 2021 would fund roughly 75% of the estimated cost to renovate the Caldwell Woods Warming Shelter as a “wellness and welcome center.” The reimagined building would host indoor recreation activities and provide information on recreation and nature-based programs at the Caldwell Preserves, including yoga, pilates, meditation, cultural arts and other wellness-related classes. It would also serve as a starting point for outdoor nature hikes, bird watching, Trail Watch training and other programs.

The PARC grant project includes accessibility improvements to parking areas and paths serving the warming shelter and Whealan Pool Aquatic Center, where additional site parking is available. It would also fund a new Caldwell Preserves information kiosk to increase awareness of the public indoor and outdoor recreation amenities and programs.

Other ideas for additional site improvements beyond those funded by the PARC grant include: Repair of the concrete sledding hill stairs (planned in summer 2022), new outdoor seating near the renovated Caldwell building, and scenic river overlook signs and seating from the paved North Branch Trail System.

A second phase of community outreach will focus on proposed renovations to Edgebrook Golf Course began in fall 2021 as part of a larger study of three forest preserve golf courses.

10-Year Vision Plan

A complete draft of the Caldwell Preserves 10-Year Vision Plan will be posted here in fall 2022, after additional public comments and survey responses are reviewed.

These key strategies will guide the plan:

Invest in visitor amenities

  • Install new information and wayfinding signs 
  • Invest in other Planned Improvements
  • Explore feasibility of fundraising for capital improvements

Promote restoration efforts

  • Identify and complete visitor-focused landscape restoration projects
  • Continue managing trails
  • Support expanded volunteer work 
  • Identify communication opportunities for volunteers to share work with trail users and picnickers

Cultivate local relationships

About the Caldwell Preserves

Caldwell Woods

Caldwell Woods, located on the northwest side of Chicago, features picnic groves, activity areas, a warming shelter, sledding hill and access to the popular North Branch Trail. Although small in size, this preserve is big on diversity, with habitats ranging from flatwoods and floodplain forests to open savanna and oak woodlands.

Bunker Hill

Known for its popular picnic groves, Bunker Hill contains remarkable natural areas, including a floodplain forest, open savanna and the Sidney Yates Flatwoods. The site is part of the extensive North Branch Trail System and offers easy parking and natural play areas for kids.