The Forest Preserves of Cook County, one of the nation’s oldest and largest preserve systems, launched its centennial anniversary campaign today during a special event at the Chicago Cultural Center. As part of the three-year campaign, a new vision is being set for the continued preservation of the Forest Preserves, as well as initiatives to get more Cook County residents engaged with nature.
Through the campaign, the Forest Preserves seek to reach all residents of Cook County and invite them to discover, enjoy and appreciate the Forest Preserves, which account for more than 11 percent of the land in Cook County. To help achieve this, the centennial campaign includes the development and implementation of centennial-inspired projects that will expand the way people experience the Forest Preserves.
“One hundred years ago, the leaders of our community came together to preserve our natural environment, and I’m excited to continue implementing their vision to protect and restore this important land,” Forest Preserve Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “As President, I have come to realize that one of the most underappreciated – yet one of the most significant – assets in Cook County is our Forest Preserve system. We have an ambitious goal for this Centennial celebration. We want to reach nearly all the residents of Cook County and invite them to discover, enjoy and ultimately appreciate these lands that have been entrusted to us.”
“The Forest Preserves are as important to Chicago’s identity, economic viability and quality of life as our beautiful lakefront, and this campaign is the perfect opportunity to celebrate them,” said Arnold Randall, Forest Preserve District of Cook County General Superintendent. “The Preserves not only provide environmental benefits to Cook County residents, but they also provide health benefits and contribute to stronger communities. We are committed to connecting new and diverse residents of Cook County with opportunities to experience nature in new ways.”
As part of the centennial campaign, the Forest Preserves of Cook County are undertaking a number of new initiatives, including:
- Developing a Next Century Conservation Plan with Openlands and Metropolis Strategies, involving an ambitious study of best practices and recommendations for the next 100 years.
- Planning for the long-term protection and growth of the Preserves by implementing recommendations from the recently completed recreation and camping master plans, and the in-progress trails and habitat restoration master plans
- Implementing innovative interpretive experiences with our partner, Openlands, at two sites (Tinley Creek and Deer Grove) to serve as new models for people to experience, explore and understand natural diversity. The sites will contain interpretive elements, including artistic features, innovative signage, apps or mobile-optimized websites, and other new technology.
- Dedicating the first new campgrounds, with the goal of including bunkhouses, tent cabins and tent pads by the time the centennial celebration concludes in 2015.
- Establishing “Gateways to Nature” sites, including redesigned entrances, trail signage and enhanced visitor information at highly visible locations throughout the county to encourage people to enter into the Forest Preserves.
- Strengthening connections with the health care community by working with health care providers to create specific ways to engage with nature as part of a healthier lifestyle.
- Upgrading trail maps and way-finding signage, with an emphasis on integrating new technology. These maps will showcase the Preserves’ 330-mile trail system and illustrate shared connections in an inviting, informational, and interactive way.
- Expanding current programming aimed at fostering the next generation of conservation leaders through educational initiatives, including expanded citizen scientist and youth engagement programs, science fair awards and conservation internships.
- Introducing key Conservation Months aimed at increasing the volunteer stewardship force that focuses on the eradication of invasive species, a pressing threat to native plants and animals and healthy habitats.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County were set aside by visionaries beginning in 1913. Covering nearly 69,000 acres, the Forest Preserves are among the most geologically and biologically rich natural areas in the United States, with wetlands, tallgrass prairies, oak woodlands, savannas and more.
In the next three years, the Forest Preserves will include special events and activities for area residents in addition to new plans and initiatives that address key themes of recreation, education and preservation. To learn more about the centennial anniversary campaign and to stay up-to-date on special events and news, please visit FPDCC.com/100.