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President's Letter: Why We Camp

This summer, as we head into the final stretch of our centennial celebration, we’re extremely proud to reintroduce camping to Cook County residents and visitors for the first time in more than half a century.

The first site to open, Camp Shabbona Woods in South Holland, will welcome campers beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Friday May 22, 2015. Additional sites in Willow Springs, Northbrook, Oak Forest and Palatine will open throughout the summer, offering tent campsites, RV campsites, small and large cabins for families, groups and couples of all ages and interests.

This achievement has been a long time in the making. Conversations early in my first term led to the development and release of an extensive Camping Master Plan in January 2013. Since then, we’ve completely reimagined these campground locations, adding cabins, tent pads, shelters and fire rings, while updating bunkhouses and dining halls. We’ve brought on experts in site management and reservations. And we’ve developed programs to help our guests learn camping skills and engage with the surrounding landscape. The Forest Preserves has invested approximately $30 million in the campgrounds to date.

Why such an investment? Simply put, camping has a unique ability to connect us to nature and one another.  When we camp, we step outside everyday routines. We come together while preparing and sharing meals. And, of course, we share the wonders of the natural world, from watching a wood duck take off across the water to learning the constellations of the night sky.

And while camping can certainly require expensive gear and hard-won skills, it needn’t be that way. Camping can be for everyone. With a range of lodging, training and gear options, we aim to make camping easy, affordable and enriching for both seasoned outdoors enthusiasts and first-time campers.

I hope you’ll learn about all our new offerings in this month’s Forest Way and visit our Camping Page to learn more about Forest Preserves of Cook County Camping. Camping is the kind of experience that can change a life. I believe it has the power to create generations of Cook County residents more strongly connected to their forest preserves than ever before.

Toni Preckwinkle, President
Forest Preserves of Cook County