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President's Letter: Partnerships, Investments Help Create New Amenities

At the Forest Preserves of Cook County, we work to ensure that residents and visitors can access and enjoy our nearly 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful. A big part of this is adding new and improved amenities like trails, campgrounds, nature centers, and interpretive and wayfinding signage. It also includes ecological restoration that makes sites feel more welcoming, and programming that is fun and informative.  

Last month, I was in the Forest Preserves to cut the ribbon on two great new investments that will let more residents easily navigate the Preserves and understand the myriad ways they can be enjoyed. Both are the result of partnerships and significant grant funding.  

In the Village of Rosemont, a new pedestrian bridge over the Des Plaines River at Bryn Mawr Avenue gives walkers, runners and bikers the chance to easily access the Forest Preserves and Rosemont’s vibrant entertainment district. Paid for with funding from Rosement and federal dollars, the project was a joint effort spearheaded by Rosemont with substantial assistance from Franklin Park as well as the West Central Municipal Conference. 

Working closely with these and other partners, we are working to find support for plans for a total of $70 million in improvements for the Des Plaines Trail system around issues like flooding, trail reconstruction, safety improvements, and other potential new trail connections. 

In southeastern Cook County, we celebrated the grand opening of the Sand Ridge Campus, which reimagines one square mile of Forest Preserves into an integrated site where visitors can hike, bike, camp, birdwatch, swim, fish, play, learn or simply spend some time in nature. 

New and improved amenities include new interactive exhibits, a paved trail spur connecting to the regional Burnham Greenway Trail System, ecological restoration, landscape art, new trails at Camp Shabbona Woods, accessible fishing outcroppings at Green Lake, and new signs to welcome visitors and create a cohesive experience. The $1.6 million investment was funded in large part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program. 

Partnerships like these bring new resources into the Forest Preserves and show what is possible when we work together. And these investments help ensure our natural heritage can be enjoyed for generations to come.