Paul Douglas Wetland Restoration

an American coot in the wetlands at Paul Douglas Preserve
An American coot in the wetlands at Paul Douglas Preserve.

A multi-year wetland mitigation project at Paul Douglas Preserve will reestablish wetlands and restore native vegetation cover. Beginning in 2023, comprehensive hydrological and ecological efforts will start across the roughly 154-acre project area. Questions? Contact

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Paul Douglas Preserve, in Hoffman Estates, is a former agricultural property that has been managed primarily as a hay ground since the Forest Preserves of Cook County acquired most of the property in the mid-1960s and early 1970s.

The approximately 154-acre project area includes about 18 acres of wetland reestablishment, as well as 36 acres of wetland enhancement and 84 acres of upland restoration. This restoration project will improve the ecological function of the preserve at no cost to the Forest Preserves. The mitigation is required by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to offset wetland impacts created by the Village of Winnetka’s Stormwater Management Wetlands Project at Skokie Lagoons.

Restoration Work

The first step in restoring the function of Paul Douglas’ wetlands is to disable its drain tiles. Drain tiles were used extensively by early settlers to efficiently drain rainwater from agricultural land to assist with farming. Many former agricultural areas acquired by the Forest Preserves come with buried drain tiles.

Drain tiles move water downhill fast, effectively lowering the water table and diminishing the natural hydrology. By disabling the drain tiles at Paul Douglas, the land will slowly recover its natural hydrology, which can expand existing wetlands by both increasing the water table and reestablishing currently drained wetland that was originally wet. Drain tiles can be disabled with ease without widespread ground disturbance. Additionally, drain tile blowouts, which appear as holes in the ground, will be filled and repaired as part of the scope of work.

As the hydrology of the site recovers, restoration crews will slowly change the vegetation cover from primarily invasive species and hay grasses to a mix of native grasses, sedges and forbs. Native plants will be reintroduced to the site to increase underground biomass, increase biodiversity, increase cover for wildlife, reduce stormwater runoff and increase the infiltration of groundwater.

The USACE requires specific goals for plant diversity and wetland retention to be met before being certified as a completed project. While the disabling of the drain tiles and native plant reintroduction will be completed upfront, the overall restoration process will continue through a period of 4 to 7 years due to the length of recovery and wetland reestablishment processes.

The parking lot and trail system will remain open during this project.

Jens Jensen Land and Water Reserve, Orland Grassland Land and Water Reserve, and Bobolink Meadow Land and Water Reserve are examples of similar Forest Preserves restoration projects that are now complete.