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President's Letter: Experience Something New This Year in the Forest Preserves

A new year always brings fresh motivation and excitement to make changes and develop good habits. For many, it’s a chance to seek new experiences, too. From camping and paddling to birding and volunteering, you can start your New Year right in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

This winter, consider heading out to enjoy winter sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Snowshoes are available free to loan at most of the Forest Preserves’ nature centers on a first come, first served basis. If you’re looking to try cross-country skiing, head to Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont, which transforms into Sagawau Nordic, including groomed trails, equipment rentals and even lessons.

Come spring, there will be plenty of new opportunities with the warmer weather. The Forest Preserves’ programming team hosts free paddling programs, providing all the necessary gear and instruction for kayaking. There are also locations throughout the Preserves where you can rent a kayak or canoe for a self-guided outing. And although birding can be enjoyed in the Forest Preserves year-round, it is especially glorious in spring with ephemerals blooming and spring migrants returning.

During summer, nothing beats spending a night under the stars. If you’ve never tried camping in the Forest Preserves, check out our five campgrounds located throughout the county. With tent sites, cabins and RV spots, you’ll be sure to find the right accommodation. If you’re new to camping, watch for our camping workshops to learn all about setting up a tent, cooking over a campfire, and more.

If you’re looking to also give back this year, there are numerous volunteer opportunities throughout the Forest Preserves. You can come out all year to help with ecological restoration, but fall is a beautiful time to join our dedicated community. In addition to cooler temperatures, volunteers will enjoy watching the forest canopy change to fiery reds, oranges and yellows.

The Forest Preserves are for everyone, and nature has gifts year round. We hope to see you in the Preserves!