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President's Letter: Everyone is Welcome in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s values are clear: all people are welcome, and everyone should feel safe at any of our facilities. The incident that occurred on June 14 in Caldwell Woods was disturbing and appalling. The Forest Preserves is deeply committed to inclusiveness and we make every effort to infuse our work with that commitment. We know there’s always room for improvement and we want to use the incident as an opportunity to grow stronger.

We have already begun reaching out to our partners in the community, seeking advice about how we can better serve all communities and be more welcoming hosts to patrons of diverse backgrounds. We are seeking advice from the leaders who best understand the needs of their communities.

While we have worked hard to expand community partnerships and create new relationships that have resulted in various programs and initiatives — such as the Camping Leadership Immersion Course, Forest Preserve Experience, and numerous culturally diverse special events — we are setting goals for more and also for ways to make those partnerships more impactful. One such event was last weekend’s Peace in the Preserves, which was hosted by Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate. The Forest Preserves was proud to support the event, and offer attendees nature-based activities.

We are also having internal discussions with every member of our Forest Preserves staff. Forest Preserves leadership has made it a priority to create an inclusive environment and a staff that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve. We also value continued improvement, which includes ways to engage all of our staff, especially different ethnicities and people of color. We know those directly impacted are those who are best-equipped to guide our policies.

Additionally, we are analyzing our procedures and looking at ways to improve all aspects of employee training. We want to best understand how training can be improved — not just for officers, but for all our staff. This unfortunate incident presents us with a learning opportunity and we intend to use it.

Please know that we are working every day to earn the trust of all our residents and visitors.

We hope to see you in the Preserves,

Toni Preckwinkle, President
Forest Preserves of Cook County

Arnold Randall, General Superintendent
Forest Preserves of Cook County