Background and History
The Forest Preserve District of Will County was created by referendum on November 2, 1926, to preserve the County's fast-dwindling wilderness and open spaces for the benefit of future generations.
We are a separate, legal entity and taxing body with boundaries coterminous with those of the County of Will. In accordance with the Statutes of the State of Illinois, the affairs of the Forest Preserve District are managed by a Board of Commissioners
, who are also the current County Board members.
Use of owned lands are governed by Illinois Compiled Statutes and by ordinances, rules, and regulations of the District. Download our General Use Regulations (Ordinance No. 124).
Our first acquisition was a portion of Messenger Woods
in 1930; by the end of 2015, more than 21,000 acres of land were owned, leased, or managed by the Forest Preserve District.
In the current climate of rapid urbanization of Will County, open land preservation is all the more difficult and all the more important.
Will County voters approved two referendum initiatives for the Forest Preserve District in 1999 and 2005, providing $165 million to the District, with $132 million going toward land preservation and $33 million devoted to site improvements. With these funds, we have acquired more than 8,600 acres of land in the past decade.
Among the site improvements funded by the referenda have been complete renovations of Plum Creek Nature Center
and Isle a la Cache Museum
, the expansion of our trail system to more than 120 total miles, and the development of the 80-acre Whalon Lake.
The result has been that communities from Naperville to Beecher have benefited with increased preserved open space and amenities that have attracted tens of thousands to Will County forest preserves.Organizational Structure
The Forest Preserve District is led by a Chief Operating Officer, who oversees the Operations and Program Services Division, and a Chief Financial Officer, who oversees the Business Administration and Financial Services Division. Both report to the 26-member Board of Commissioners
. Operations and Program Services Division
The Operations and Program Services Division includes five departments: Law Enforcement, Maintenance and Operations, Planning and Development, Marketing and Communications and Visitor Services.Law EnforcementThe Forest Preserve District has its own police force, which is overseen by the Chief of Police and is made up of state-certified police officers who are also trained in conservation law. Our police patrol the forest preserves and offer assistance to preserve users, while also ensuring that the preserves remain safe.
Learn more about reporting a safety concern.
Maintenance and Operations
The Maintenance and Operations Department cares for our preserves with grass cutting, cleanup and general maintenance to all preserve roadways, trails, structures and landscaping. It also maintains our fleet of vehicles and power equipment.Planning and Development
The Planning and Development Department identifies properties suitable for preservation, negotiates with landowners, creates and implements plans for preserve improvements, coordinates land restoration activities, maintains property records, and oversees property boundaries. Learn more about the District's land preservation and improvement projects
or land management activities
.Marketing and Communications
The Marketing and Communications Department is responsible for all of our publications and promotion, handles public inquiries, communicates with the media, coordinates preserve groundbreakings and grand openings, and oversees our website and social media.Visitor Services
The Visitor Services Department plans and provides all public programs and special events, staffs our auxiliary visitor centers, issues permits, cultivates partnership opportunities, and works with school groups to provide educational programs and activities. Learn more about educational offerings, public programs and events, partnership opportunities or permit issuance.
Business Administration and Financial Services Division
The Business Administration and Financial Services Division includes two departments: Accounting and Finance, and Information Technology.
Accounting and Finance
The Accounting and Finance Department includes the offices of Finance, Human Resources, and Volunteer Services.
The Finance section is responsible for our accounting, paying of bills, investments and payroll. Learn more about the District's finances.
The Human Resources section assists employees with insurance and workers' compensation claims, keeps track of personnel records, and assists employees with health and retirement benefits. Learn more about employment with the District.
The Volunteer Services section provides information to potential volunteers, trains new volunteers as required and supervises volunteer activities. Learn more about volunteering with the District.
The Information Technology Department coordinates the maintenance of our computer and phone systems and oversees the front desk at Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet.
Photos by Glenn P. Knoblock