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President's Letter: The Power of Partnerships

How does an agency like the Forest Preserves of Cook County harness the possibilities that come with managing nearly 70,000 acres of land? One word: Partnerships.

From individual volunteers who do critical restoration work to nonprofits dedicated to increasing access to nature to community groups who introduce new visitors to what the Forest Preserves offers, a lot of our work is accomplished thanks to cooperation and teamwork. I’m proud to say that also includes other agencies within Cook County, too.

Forest Preserves volunteers are important partners in conservation and more, complementing and advancing Forest Preserves efforts and programs. Our volunteers clear away habitat-damaging invasive species, monitor plants and animals, clean up litter, and even help ensure the Preserves are safe and welcoming. Stewardship site leaders regularly communicate with Forest Preserves staff to coordinate their restoration efforts. These partnerships are an integral component to the Forest Preserves’ goal of restoring 30,000 acres to good health.

Partnerships with nonprofits and community organizations bring more residents out into the preserves, for birdwatching hikes, or bike rides, or 5K runs. Recently, the Forest Preserves’ programming team began accepting proposals from individuals and organizations who are interested in expanding or developing programs in the forest preserves. Another kind of nonprofit organization, the Forest Preserve Foundation, brings in resources that help enhance and increase access to outdoor experiences for all communities.

The Forest Preserves works with other governmental agencies to achieve its mission, as well. This month, we announced a five-year, $25 million investment by the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways for improvements and repairs to roads and trails in more than 50 locations across Cook County. For several years the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) has been the primary funder and a partner in the award-winning Forest Preserve Experience (FPE) program, which employs youth from families who use HACC services in a five-week summer program run by the Friends of the Forest Preserves. Participants help their community’s environment through river and lake clean-up activities, tree mulching and invasive plant removal efforts in their local forest preserves.

The forest preserves are an incredible resource for Cook County residents. They are made even better thanks to the dedication and support of individuals, community organizations and civic leaders.

We hope to see you in your forest preserves!

Toni Preckwinkle, President