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President's Letter: Where Kids Learn to Love Nature

No matter where I am in the Forest Preserves—attending an event, visiting a nature center, or walking along a trail—I love seeing how much kids enjoy being out in nature. There are no cars in the woods, no billboards. It’s peaceful. No matter the season, there is something new to discover. 

More than 100 years ago, visionary civic leaders knew that the woodlands, prairies, wetlands and savannas found throughout the Forest Preserves of Cook County needed preservation—not only for the benefit of the land itself, but for the residents of Cook County as well. Today, we carry on the legacy of preserving our open lands so that future generations may also have opportunities to experience the innumerable benefits of having access to nature.  

Throughout our 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful, kids can let their imagination and curiosity bloom while exploring different habitats. At our nature centers, kids can learn about native plants and animals and ask our expert naturalists questions about the natural world. Kids can enjoy adventures that range from experiencing a night sleeping under the stars to joining educational and fun programs and events. Or youth can simply run around large open fields and burn through excess energy.  

For kids, especially, the wonders of nature never cease. What begins as a walk or bike ride along a trail could result in spotting a turtle basking in sunlight or a hawk soaring above the trees. Perhaps a child regularly visits a local forest preserve with their family that includes a forest of maples, and an autumn visit offers a glorious display of golds and yellows. And a spring or summer picnic may end with time spent relaxing while guessing the shapes of clouds or listening to the wind blow through the trees. 

These experiences not only help our youth learn to appreciate nature; they help shape them into becoming the next civic leaders who carry on the legacy of protecting our public lands—all so that the next generation of kids can have these wonderful experiences as well.