Looking Forward

2021 Annual Report

Highlights of 2021

1,035

Acres of land acquired.

22,981

Total acres preserved throughout the county.

39,300

People served through education, outreach & public programs.

383,000

Followers across all social media platforms.

9,200

Hours of volunteer service donated.

$1.6 Million

Funds received through grants.

The Forest Preserve District protects and enhances Will County’s natural and cultural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

PROTECT

We protect the health and well-being of nature and the residents of Will County by conserving parcels of land – some of which are of the highest quality and have rare ecological value.

ENHANCE

We enhance our communities by restoring land back to its natural state as closely as possible and providing opportunities for people to engage with the outdoors through trails, fishing lakes, dog parks and more.

BENEFIT

We benefit current and future generations by helping to keep air and water clean, by preventing floods to residential areas and by promoting an overall healthy ecosystem.

OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES

  1. Staying true to our purposeAs the Forest Preserve has evolved over the past century, we have witnessed many changes in the landscape and the built environment. What remains unchanged is our commitment to our mission.
  2. Being good stewardsAs stewards, we preserve, manage and restore significant natural and cultural resources to support an environmental legacy and encourage a community-wide respect for nature.
  3. Connecting people and natureThe Forest Preserve provides multiple avenues for the public to experience nature. Through these opportunities, we share the very purpose for which forest preserve lands have been preserved, protected and managed as well as the value that they provide.
  4. Focusing on wellness: The Forest Preserve strives to make nature accessible to all and to offer a variety of ways for people to engage with the outdoors in support of their mental and physical health.
  5. Working with othersTogether with federal, state and local agency partners; non-governmental organizations; volunteers; and private citizens, we multiply our efforts and improve the environment for all life that calls Will County home or relies on its natural resources.
  6. Promoting sustainabilityChanges in the economy, in our climate and in social conditions will all have an impact. Understanding and planning for these changes is critical to the sustainability of our organization.

 

Staying True to Our Purpose

Land Acquisition

The Forest Preserve acquired more than 1,035 acres of land in 2021. Highlights include:

Preserve, Visitor Center & Trail Enhancements

  • Hammel Woods dam in Shorewood was removed in 2021 to benefit the health of the DuPage River and the wildlife that lives in and around it.

 

  • An improvement project completed at Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville was funded by an Illinois Department of Natural Resources Public Museum Capital Grant.
  • Improvements were made to the bird sanctuary viewing area at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township with the installation of bird-friendly windows.
  • Monee Reservoir in Monee Township went green with its concession items in 2021, no longer selling beverages in plastic bottles.
  • Work on the Black Road trail connection project was finished in 2021 and included the installation of two pedestrian bridges over the DuPage River and I-55.

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In 2022, we will work to:

  1. Continue to prioritize Forest Preserve investments to maximize equitable opportunities for all communities.
  2. Maintain or exceed a ratio of 1 acre of Forest Preserve property per 30 Will County residents.
  3. Enhance, expand and improve the regional and local trail systems to maintain or exceed a ratio of 1 mile of trail per 5,500 Will County residents.
  4. Break ground on improvements at Lake Chaminwood Preserve, expanding parking and connecting the internal trail system to the I&M Canal State Trail via a new bridge.
  5. Continue development of the Veterans Memorial Trail linking the Spring Creek Greenway Trail to the 159th Street Bikeway.
  6. Continue fabrication and installation of new exhibit features at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.
  7. Open the recently acquired Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook.

 

Being Good Stewards

2021 Stewardship Highlights

6,200

Acres on which natural area stewardship activities were conducted.

470

Pounds of seed collected from 292 different native plant species to establish native communities in newly restored areas.

50

Invasive plant species controlled within 37 preserves, covering more than 3,300 acres.

2,100

Acres on which prescribed fire was introduced.

24

Populations of rare plants species monitored at 14 preserves.

In 2022, we will work to:

  1. Restore nearly 160 acres of existing farmland to native habitat, including property at Kankakee Sands Preserve; Forked Creek Preserve; and Hadley Valley.
  2. Convert 416 acres of newly acquired farmland to conservation farming/regenerative agriculture.
  3. Conduct land management activities on 11,500 acres of owned or managed property, including hay and row crop management.
  4. Initiate conversion of 147 acres of agricultural row crops to certified organic.

 

Connecting People to Nature

In 2022, we will work to:

  1. Develop and present a dynamic schedule of 400+ interpretive-led public programs.
  2. Present monthly outreach programs for the wider community including those for libraries, clubs and local communities.
  3. Offer a minimum of five visitor center-based events and five exhibitions, collectively designed to increase awareness and visitation.
  4. Grow the number of followers and engagements on social media by 10-15%.
  5. Increase the number of website page views by 30%, and the number of digital newsletter subscribers by 15%.
  6. Expand viewership of “The Buzz” nature program by 20%.
  7. Complete a refresh of the Forest Preserve’s website that will update its content management system and provide new features for the public.

 

Focusing on Wellness

In 2021, we not only continued to offer programs that focused on a variety of recreational interests, but that also represented a variety of groups to provide greater access for everyone. Programs were held for seniors, Spanish speakers, women, men, children and families, individuals with sensory-processing needs, and even dogs and their owners.

We Provide:

In 2022, we will work to:

  1. Complete and open to the public the new All-Abilities Trail at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.
  2. Develop an inclusion initiative consisting of a promotional campaign, a “Four Rivers for All” event, and additional programming for diverse audiences.
  3. Seek 2-4 opportunities to engage with underserved communities.

 

Working with Others

Grants

Grants expand local tax dollars to enable the District to provide more amenities to Will County residents. In 2021, the following grants were received:

$1,520,000

Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation
Land Acquisition and Restoration Grant
Purchase of 47.5-acre parcel adjacent to Hadley Valley

$92,000

Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Habitat Preservation Grant
Braidwood Sands Natural Area

$1,612,000

Total Grants for 2021

 

Projects

Highlights from 2021 include:

  • Coordinating with NRG and RailWorks to install six new turtle crossing trenches at Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve.
  • Seeking consultation from Easterseals Joliet Region on the design and content of an all-abilities trail at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.

 

Partnerships

The District recognizes two agencies annually with its Appreciation of Partners Awards. Organizations selected in 2021 were:

  • The City of Lockport for its commitment to the Veterans Memorial Trail extension from Spring Creek Greenway Trail in Hadley Valley to 159th Street (Route 7).
  • The Lower DuPage River Watershed Coalition for its support and provision of resources to make the Hammel Woods dam removal project possible. 

 

Volunteering

In 2021, more than 9,158 hours of service were generously donated by 576 individuals, allowing the District to accomplish much more than it could have without their diligent efforts.

In 2022, we will work to:

  1. Continue to seek partnerships and outside funding sources to assist with programs and projects.
  2. Expand volunteer opportunities, providing more options for the public to engage with the Forest Preserve and rallying even greater support for the work that we do.
  3. Offer programs at Hidden Lakes Trout Farm and Hidden Oaks Nature Center in cooperation with the Bolingbrook Park District to introduce residents to the Forest Preserve; and seek community input through an interest survey of area residents to determine needs, relevant topics and expectations for this site.
  4. Continue our focus on community policing of our preserves, and to sponsor and participate in the annual National Night Out event, which promotes community building between law enforcement and the public.
  5. Partner with other local forest preserve and park district police departments on concerns within the community.

 

Promoting Sustainability

 

 

 

 

Sponsorships and Donations

Nearly $98,000 was received by the Forest Preserve in 2021 through sponsorships and donations. These included sponsorships provided by The Nature Foundation of Will County as well as donations from the following individuals and organizations:

  • Kimberly Ardolino
  • Mark Bogdan Family
  • Chevron
  • Chris Meade Foundation
  • Major Taylor Chicago/Joliet Bicycle Club
  • Betty Nehls
  • Greg and Laura Schweitzer
  • Elaine Torrence
  • Richard Wachenheim

Sponsorships and donations listed above exceed $250 in cash value.

Travel our trails

Wherever you are in Will County, a Forest Preserve is nearby.

If hiking, biking or in-line skating interests you, the Forest Preserve District of Will County has a variety of trails to enjoy. Some trails are also available for horseback riding, and winter trail recreation includes cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

DOWNLOAD THE 2021 ANNUAL REPORT

 

Photo credits: Mark Bettin, Chris Cheng, Glenn P. Knoblock, Chad Merda, Anthony Schalk

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Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Compass, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to Get Going, which outlines the must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.

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