Investing approximately $1.6 million in enhancements to a cluster of amenities on one square mile of southeast Cook County, the Forest Preserves of Cook County celebrated a new, integrated vision of a campus for visitors to hike, bike, camp, birdwatch, swim, fish, play, learn or simply spend some time in nature.
Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Forest Preserves General Superintendent Arnold Randall, Cook County Commissioners Stanley Moore and Donna Miller, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan spoke at a ribbon-cutting for the new Sand Ridge Campus, which includes Sand Ridge Nature Center, Camp Shabbona Woods, Green Lake and Green Lake Family Aquatic Center.
“The Calumet region is a special part of Cook County, and Sand Ridge Campus emphasizes the area’s unique natural and cultural heritage. As part of the Forest Preserves’ intentional investment in south suburban Cook County, this campus will serve local residents and other visitors for generations to come,” President Preckwinkle said.
“Sand Ridge Campus is a natural theme park. There is something for everybody here. Providing an opportunity to create your own adventure and be out in the natural world is a big part of our mission. We saw an opportunity to connect and augment an amazing mix of our existing resources in this square mile, and I’m very proud of what’s been accomplished,” said General Superintendent Randall.
Funded in large part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program, the creation of a campus includes:
- Sand Ridge Nature Center has a fully redesigned and rebuilt interior with new interactive exhibits that explain the area’s rare dune-and-swale landscape and its impact on the cultural history, plants and animals of the area. The nature play area for kids outside has been expanded, as well.
- Old fences have been taken down and new trails added through the woods at the Camp Shabbona Woods campsite.
- New fishing outcroppings at Green Lake for anyone who wants to try their luck catching a largemouth bass, bluegill or rainbow trout.
- A new one-point-three mile paved trail spur along Paxton Avenue and 159th Street connects the nature center, Green Lake, the aquatic center and into the regional Burnham Greenway Trail System.
- A new piece of landscape art on the trail interprets the area’s dune-and-swale environment.
- Directional and interpretive signage welcomes visitors and creates a cohesive experience.
- The campus is one of the Forest Preserves’ top priority sites for ecological restoration, and continuing work has removed another 30 acres of invasive brush surrounding the nature center grounds. Native plants coming back include rose mallow, sassafras and several species of oak tree.
About the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Don’t you sometimes just want to escape? Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful there’s no better place to feel free.