The Forest Preserve District of Will County grew by 40.15 acres this summer, bringing the total amount of land owned, leased and managed by the District to 21,966 acres.
The newest addition to the District is located west of Cedar Road along Spring Creek in Homer Township. The acquisition will provide a buffer to Spring Creek and help bridge the gap between Hadley Valley Preserve and Messenger Woods Nature Preserve. Closing the gap between the two preserves will also provide an opportunity to link the sections of Spring Creek Greenway Trail located in each preserve.
While the Forest Preserve’s large-scale land acquisition program – which was funded by two successful referendums in 1999 and 2005 – has come to a close, strategic land purchases continue, said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer.
“There are a number of high priority parcels remaining from our previous programs that would serve to connect forest preserves, extend greenways and trails and buffer existing properties,” he added. “We remain committed to the goals set forth in those programs.”
The Forest Preserve used grant funds to pay the purchase price of $988,772 for the 40.15 acres.
The Illinois Clean Energy Foundation Community Grant provided 80 percent of the acquisition price. In October 2018, a grant of $1,594,640 was awarded to the Forest Preserve for the purchase of three parcels along Spring Creek. The June 26 acquisition involves two of these parcels, and the Forest Preserve has until October 2021 to use the remainder of the money to acquire a third parcel.
“The Foundation is pleased to assist with the protection of habitat along the Spring Creek Greenway,” said Dennis O’Brien, Executive Director of Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. “This addition to Hadley Valley Preserve helps advance the Foundation’s goal of expanding existing natural areas for wildlife and for the people of Illinois to enjoy.”
To date, the Foundation has helped nonprofits and local governments throughout the state to acquire over 27,800 acres of land.
The remaining 20 percent of the Hadley Valley parcel acquisition price is being funded by Openlands, a Chicago-based conservation organization.
“For over a decade, Openlands has worked closely with the Forest Preserve District of Will County to restore the natural mosaic of wetlands, woodlands and prairie at Hadley Valley Preserve and nearby Messenger Woods Nature Preserve,” said Openlands President and CEO Jerry Adelmann. “We are thrilled to continue that work and devote O’Hare Modernization and Mitigation Account funds to help expand protected open space for everyone in Will County.”
Negotiations on the third parcel, 40 acres located on the east side of Cedar Road, have been unsuccessful at this time; however, Forest Preserve staff will continue to discuss preservation options with the owner in the future.
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