Since its creation by the progressive and far-sighted citizens of Will County in 1928, the Forest Preserve District of Will County has grown to approximately 22,000 acres of lands owned, leased, or managed.
Our first acquisition was a portion of Messenger Woods
in 1930; by 1973, there had been 25 tracts of land acquired. The rate of acquisition has dramatically increased since then:
1930s = 728 acres protected
1940s = 190 acres protected
1950s = 12 acres protected
1960s = 79 acres protected
1970s = 2,126 acres protected
1980s = 2,899 acres protected
1990s = 6,446 acres protected
2000s = 7,987 acres protected
2010s = More than 1,200 acres protected
Will County's historically rural character has been rapidly disappearing. Will County's population of 502,266 in 2000 grew by more than 35% to the 2010 census population of 677,560, making it one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. The Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (now known as the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
) has forecasted the 2030 population to increase to nearly 1.1 million. With demand for open space increasing in direct proportion to the decreasing supply of land, we have used a broad range of preservation strategies.
Most landowners prefer to sell their property to the District in full fee simple, which includes all ownership rights. Other landowners choose to donate property, leave property to the District in a will, or provide the District with a lease or license on their property. In other instances, landowners have sold land to the District while retaining certain ownership rights, or have sold or donated certain ownership rights to the District (i.e., via a Conservation Easement
). For more information about our preservation efforts, contact the Land Preservation Coordinator at 815.727.8700.
But the work doesn't end once the land is acquired. We then begin a planning process for the management, restoration, and possible development of the land for recreational purposes. Our top priority is preserving land for the protection, enhancement, or management of natural resources. We enhance and manage natural resources by maintaining or restoring ecosystem processes that have historically influenced the extent, structure, and species composition of natural communities prior to settlement. In other words, we strive to create and protect habitats that would have existed if people had never affected the land. We achieve this goal by removing invasive plant species, installing native plant species, performing prescribed burns
, and more. Visit our Land Management
page or download our Land Stewardship Policy
For information regarding specific preservation, restoration, or development projects in your area, please visit our Land Preservation and Improvement Projects page
.Photograph Courtesy of Ron Molk