Hidden Oaks, Hidden Lake acquisition finalized
The Forest Preserve District now owns the 33-acre Hidden Oaks Nature Center and Hidden Lakes Historic Trout Farm site in Bolingbrook.
The Forest Preserve District bought the site from the Bolingbrook Park District; the legal closing took place on Feb. 10.
The 33-acre parcel is located immediately south of the Forest Preserve’s 249-acre Whalon Lake preserve. A DuPage River Trail boardwalk, completed in 2015, connects the two sites.
“I think it will have a tremendous impact on what the Forest Preserve District can offer the folks here in Bolingbrook and nearby in Naperville and Romeoville,” Forest Preserve Executive Director Ralph Schultz said of the Forest Preserve’s newest addition. “This is a unique opportunity for us to be in such an urban area and have a greater impact on a greater number of people.
“When combined, the Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Hidden Lakes Trout Farm, Whalon Lake preserve and the DuPage River Trail will provide dozens of program opportunities,” Schultz added. “Almost all our programs and events are free to the public and we’re thrilled at the chance to bring additional programming closer to home for the residents of Bolingbrook and surrounding communities.”
The Park District was looking for ways to reduce long-term bond and interest debt in 2020 when the idea of approaching the Forest Preserve was proposed, said Park District Executive Director Ron Oestreich. The sale of the site guarantees that Hidden Oaks and Hidden Lakes will be preserved and kept open for public use by a larger organization that has more resources and is expert in environmental education and conservation, he explained.
The purchase price approved by the Forest Preserve District’s Board is $2.7 million, payable in three installments. The money will come from the Forest Preserve’s reserve fund.
Hidden Oaks Nature Center, 419 Trout Farm Road, north of Boughton Road in Bolingbrook, is around 7,000 square feet. It serves as a central access area to local and regional trail systems, and it features a large pavilion with a fireplace, an outdoor amphitheater, a green roof and historical and nature exhibits.
Hidden Lakes consists of four fishing ponds, which are adjacent to the east branch of the DuPage River, and a portion of the DuPage River Trail. The existing bait shop was demolished by the Park District and a larger bait shop/concessions stand is being built by the Forest Preserve.
In addition to bait shop construction, the Forest Preserve will reconfigure the interior space at Hidden Oaks to include a larger exhibit gallery, a new reception area and a larger rental space upstairs. The site also will get additional parking, new signage, an expanded trail system and new campus exhibits.
Here are some other facts about the newest Forest Preserve site:
- Hidden Lakes Trout Farm, which consists of four small fishing ponds north of the nature center, is open 8 a.m. to sunset through Oct. 31.
- A new bait shop will be constructed at Hidden Lakes Trout Farm. It will be twice the size of the old bait shop and will include a public bathroom, a storage room and an overhang to shelter customers.
- The nature center is slated to reopen sometime this summer, and it will be open year-round Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays noon to 4 p.m.
- The Forest Preserve will continue to stock the lakes with assistance from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
- The Forest Preserve will continue partner with the park district to continue offering fishing derbies at the lakes.
- Hidden Lakes features a kayak/canoe launch into the east branch of the DuPage River.
- A Park District preschool housed at the nature center will be allowed to finish out the year in May. The Park District will continue preschool programs at its other facilities. The Forest Preserve will not offer a preschool.
- A nature trail travels north from the nature center and links with a section of the DuPage River Trail. The trail goes north into Whalon Lake, west to Indian Boundary Park and east to a parking area at Royce Road.