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President's Letter: Bringing the Forest to the Center of Chicago

Last month, I had the honor of attending the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s annual Live Healthy, Discover Nature event in Chicago’s Daley Plaza. During the 4-hour event, Forest Preserves partners and staff introduced the many opportunities to enjoy our local wilderness to hundreds of downtown visitors and employees.

One of the most exciting aspects of this event is the location in the heart of Chicago, where many might be surprised to learn about Cook County’s rich natural diversity. From forest canopies to tallgrass prairies, thriving nature is just a short distance from towering skyscrapers, bustling Michigan Avenue and congested Lake Shore Drive.

Forest Preserves staff and representatives from partners shared information about hiking, mountain biking, waste reduction, camping, native plant gardening, model airplane flying and more. I want to thank Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Zoological Society, Openlands, Shedd Aquarium, Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability, CAMBr, Chicago Park District, University of Illinois Extension and the other organizations for their time and expertise.

Those who stopped by the event were also able to meet native resident animals, from birds of prey to a native turtle. The Mike Nowak Show livestreamed interviews with participants and supporters—including myself and General Superintendent Arnold Randall—so the reach went beyond Daley Plaza, as well.

Making these connections is so important. With nearly 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful, many Cook County residents can visit a forest preserve within 20 minutes from leaving their home. Once at a Forest Preserves site, visitors can enjoy birds chirping and wind in the trees while walking miles of trails, or simply sit back and take in the sights and sounds in the beautiful landscapes.

If you have not yet explored the Forest Preserves, I encourage you to check out our website to find out more about how to immerse yourself in nature. No matter your interest, be it boating, fishing, camping or creating art, there is a way for you to enjoy the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

We hope to see you in your forest preserves!

Toni Preckwinkle, President
Forest Preserves of Cook County