The Forest Preserve District of Will County hosted a legislators' breakfast on Monday, March 20, to acquaint newly elected and re-elected state representatives and senators with the District and its legislative priorities.
Each legislator received a packet of information on the Forest Preserve and its legislative initiatives during the breakfast, which was held at the District's Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet.
Ralph Schultz, the District's chief operating officer, outlined some of the Forest Preserve's legislative objectives. He said the District will continue to:
- Work with local legislators and the Collins Street Task Force on a transfer of the Joliet Correctional Center (east of Collins Street) from the state to the Forest Preserve and/or other local agencies for public open space purposes.
- Support legislation requiring ground water protection and monitoring at all clean construction or demolition debris fill operations and all uncontaminated soil fill operations.
Schultz said the proposed transfer of the Joliet Correctional Center land presents a real opportunity to create open space in the middle of an economically depressed area. Two years ago, one of the priorities discussed at a legislators' breakfast was the transfer of 476 acres at Prairie Bluff Preserve in Crest Hill from the state to the District. That priority became a reality in 2016.
"We've done it before, we can do it again," Schultz said of the possible Joliet Correctional Center land transfer.
Forest Preserve Board President Suzanne Hart said the legislators' breakfast is an important communication tool for the District.
"We just need to make sure that our legislators know the importance of the Forest Preserve and what we need," she said.
She also urged legislators to make sure that they reinstate the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant program once all of the dust settles from budget negotiations in Springfield. OSLAD grants are state grants that can be used for acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space.
Hart said she was happy to see so many legislators in attendance at Monday's event.
"It was a great turnout," she said. "They do know this is a quality of life issue. This is one thing in government that is a feel-good thing."
State Rep. Margo McDermed said she attended the breakfast to stay in touch with the people she represents.
"When you're in Springfield it's really important to connect with your local people to find out what’s really important to them so you can keep that in mind when you're doing your work down there."
Former state Rep. Brent Hassert, who now serves as the Forest Preserve's Springfield lobbyist, thanked the legislators for their past assistance, especially on the Prairie Bluff land transfer.
"We have great legislators in Will County who really do work together for the benefit of Will County," he said.
State Rep. Al Riley said working on behalf of the Forest Preserve is one area where legislators can really be bipartisan. He said the re-use of the Joliet Correctional Center site sounds like a great opportunity.
"I really would like to see that area developed," he said.
In addition to McDermed and Riley, legislators who attended the breakfast were: state Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Pat McGuire and Sue Rezin; and state Reps. Jim Durkin, Natalie Manley and Larry Walsh Jr. State Rep. Mark Batnick sent a representative to the breakfast.
Pictured above, from left: State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Forest Preserve Board President Suzanne Hart, state Rep. Al Riley, and Forest Preserve Board commissioner Gloria Dollinger.