| Story by Cindy Cain |
As the City of Joliet and an army of volunteers work to turn the former Joliet Correctional Center into a tourist attraction befitting its “Blues Brothers” and Route 66 heritage, the Forest Preserve District is considering a plan to convert some of the prison property’s open space into a preserve near the shuttered facility.
The preservation plan would include converting two quarries, which were created when workers dug for limestone to build the prison, into recreational ponds. The site, which is located on the east side of the city in the 1100 block of Collins Street, also could include a multiuse trail, an event shelter and a parking lot that would serve the preserve as well as businesses that move into the former women’s prison located adjacent to the open space.
The plan is at its earliest stages, said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer. But the idea is exciting because the possible prison preserve could complement other redevelopment proposals that are swirling around the site, and it would provide open space in an urban area that is ripe for a bit of greenery.
“You have to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself,” Schultz said. “And if it’s no more than preserving a future opportunity, then that’s what you want to do. In a case like this we have 170 acres, a significant historical site, a site with a story to tell and a site that has an opportunity to serve the community that is underserved with open space and access to nature.”