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President's Letter: Finding Gratitude in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

November is often a time when people count their blessings before the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. With 2020 being such an unusual and stressful year for many individuals, it is more important than ever to take stock in the good that does surround us.

As President of the Forest Preserves of Cook County—and as a user of the forest preserves—I’m grateful for the incredible nature found throughout our county. With nearly 70,000 acres of diverse public lands, people of all ages can find some way to connect to our woodlands, prairies, savannas and wetlands.

Here are just some of the reasons why I’m grateful for the Forest Preserves:

  • As a mother, I am grateful that the Forest Preserves provides endless opportunities for children to explore nature, learn about native plants and wildlife up close, and join in on fun, educational programs and events—most of which are free.
  • As a grandmother, I cherish my opportunities to spend time with my grandkids. I’m grateful for the memories I’ve made camping with them at the Forest Preserves campgrounds. Nothing beats the smile on a child’s face as they take a bite out of their first s’more or the wonderment in their eyes as they stare at a sky full of stars.
  • As a former history teacher, I’m grateful that the Forest Preserves helps preserve our cultural history. I’m fascinated by the archeological research and discoveries that are possible because the Preserves have kept this land open, and I’m proud of how  programming, signage and partnerships at sites like Oak Forest Heritage Preserve and Schiller Woods help educate and enable us to connect with our past.
  • As a Black woman who grew up experiencing the painful depths of others’ hate and racism, I am grateful that the Forest Preserves is working hard to connect to Black and brown communities. The Forest Preserves belong to the people, and every person should feel welcome to experience the magic of nature.
  • As a public servant, I know how critical employment is in our communities. A good job can change a person’s life. I am grateful that the Forest Preserves and our partners offer programs like Conservation Corps and the Forest Preserve Experience to connect individuals to careers they may have never before considered.

Despite the myriad challenges we’ve all faced this year, I hope each of you have many things for which you feel gratitude. If you have a chance, may I recommend that you take an hour or two, get away from your daily life and walk in the stillness of the Forest Preserves to remember what you are thankful for. I expect you will be very glad you did.

We hope to see you in the Preserves,

Toni Preckwinkle, President