Forest Preserve District of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and General Superintendent Arnold Randall commend President Barack Obama on the creation of his new program, appropriately titled “America’s Great Outdoors.” The program focuses, in large part, on encouraging citizens to enjoy their vast open spaces, like the 68,000-plus acres that Cook County’s forest preserves offer. President Obama announced the new initiative at the White House on Wednesday, February 16, 2011.
During the White House event, President Obama noted, “Working together to protect the environment we share, lifting up the best ideas wherever we find them, preserving the great outdoors for our children and for their children — that’s our responsibility.” President Preckwinkle agrees.
“As the largest and oldest forest preserve system in the nation, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s very mandate is to preserve and protect our priceless open spaces for Cook County’s families and individuals to enjoy,” said President Preckwinkle. “President Obama’s plan is a fortunate and appropriate recognition on a national-scale that a mission like that of our forest preserve district is one that we should all embrace.”
Referring to the legacy of American open space preservation efforts, President Obama stated that “protecting this legacy has been the responsibility of all who serve this country” – a sentiment shared by Gen. Supt. Randall.
“Similar to efforts like President Obama’s initiative and programs like Leave No Child Inside, the Forest Preserve District’s goal is to get more families and individuals – especially young children and those who have never experienced the forest preserves – involved in enjoying and learning about the County’s open spaces,” said Gen. Supt. Randall. “Our greatest challenge is to create new bridges into Cook County’s forest preserves for communities that have not traditionally ventured into our open spaces, while keeping our existing visitor base engaged and improving the quality of our holdings, and we are up to that task.”
President Preckwinkle and Gen. Supt. Randall have made clear that two of their top priorities are to double the District’s current volunteer base and to acquire more land, up to the District’s legislative limit of 75,000 acres. Also, since the beginning of the President’s tenure, Mr. Randall has also headed the creation of two programs – Gateway Guides and Citizen Naturalists – to help expand volunteer training and attract new volunteers. Both programs will be launched in the coming months.