The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has opened portions of the new Oak Forest Heritage Preserve to the public. The 176.3 acre preserve is located on 159th Street, east of Cook County’s Oak Forest Medical Center campus. Visitors should enter the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve off of 159th Street, through the Medical Center’s main entrance, and follow the signs to the Preserve.
The Oak Forest Heritage Preserve site was acquired by the Forest Preserve District from Cook County in 2010 and has important ecological, cultural and historical value. An archeological investigation in the 1950s uncovered the first Native American village found in northeastern Illinois. The site, under Cook County ownership, later became a poor farm; a tuberculosis treatment center; and a burial site for the County’s indigent population. The burial areas remain closed pending final design of appropriate plantings and other restoration efforts.
In August, the Forest Preserve District released the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan on its website. The plan is available for download at: http://fpdcc.com/oak-forest-
The Master Plan offers a comprehensive vision for the future development, public use, and long-term management of the Preserve. The Plan is intended to help guide circulation and access improvements, ecological and site restoration, memorialization of sacred space, implementation of recreational amenities, and the preservation and interpretation of the rich natural and cultural history of the Preserve and adjacent properties.
Phase II Development of the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve will begin in 2013 and include interpretive signage, trail improvements, and site restoration work. Portions of the site will remain open to the public while this work is completed.