The purchase of 200 acres in Crete Township and a sliver of land along the DuPage River in Wheatland Township has pushed the Forest Preserve District’s total acreage to more than 22,000.
“This milestone illustrates how the Forest Preserve is working to improve the quality of life for its residents and to protect land for future generations,” said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve District’s chief operating officer. “Future land acquisitions will continue to expand our greenways, connect our communities and help create an open space network we can all benefit from and enjoy.”
The land purchases were approved May 14 by the Forest Preserve District’s Board of Commissioners.
Crete Township acquisition
The Crete Township acquisition, formerly operated as the Longwood Country Club golf course, is located south of Steger Road and west of Longwood Drive (and the Indiana border).
“The golf course, which was operational last year, will not open this year and it is not our intent to open it or run it as a golf course,” Schultz said. “Our intent is to close a gap in the greenway and provide additional land that can benefit nature and be restored for public use.”
The parcel is surrounded on the west and the south by the Forest Preserve’s 825-acre Plum Valley Ravines and the acquisition allows the District to expand and protect the Plum Creek Greenway. Preservation of the Crete Township parcel also provides an opportunity for possible flood mitigation for downstream communities. And public access areas and trails also will be added sometime in the future.
“This acquisition fulfills a plan laid out by the Forest Preserve decades ago to preserve the remaining floodplain and adjacent open land along Plum Creek in eastern Will County,” Schultz said.
Wheatland Township purchase
The second parcel purchased by the District is a 0.38-acre piece of land along the DuPage River adjacent to the District’s 390-acre Riverview Farmstead Preserve. The District has been in discussions with the property owner since 2017 and finally came to an agreement this year.
“Although the parcel is small, it plays an integral role in the future of the DuPage River Trail and the ongoing protection of the river, its shoreline and the associated floodplain,” Schultz said.
The triangular-shaped parcel is west of the river and south of the preserve. The acquisition will allow for the safe extension of the DuPage River Trail south of 119th Street by vacating Old Book Road.
“This small parcel is just one more piece of the puzzle,” Schultz said. “We are building this trail from north to south – one lot at a time.”
Forest Preserve growth
Money for both land acquisitions will come from the 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Program. The $25 million plan, approved in late 2019, provides $12 million for land acquisition and $13 million for preserve, facility and trail enhancements.
The Forest Preserve has identified 1,943 acres of high priority parcels throughout the county for possible acquisition. Expanding the preserves will provide additional flood water storage, underground aquifer replenishment and additional atmospheric carbon storage.
“We hope to add 1,500-2,000 acres of protected property during this program and surpass 23,000 acres,” Schultz said.
In the almost 94 years since its creation by referendum, the Forest Preserve has grown from 143 acres in 1930 to now more than 22,000 acres that are owned, leased or managed by the District. This preservation came at a time when the county’s population grew from 92,000 in 1920 to almost 700,000 residents today.
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