The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s new Kankakee Sands Preserve – Route 113 Access opened Saturday, Dec. 9.
The 555-acre preserve is located on the north side of Route 113, east of Route 53, in Custer Township. Newly installed amenities include a parking lot, a 2.5-mile crushed limestone trail, a picnic pavilion that can accommodate 80 people, an information board and a latrine. Work on the preserve began in spring 2016.
“We’re excited to offer this new access area at Kankakee Sands Preserve,” said Forest Preserve Board President Suzanne Hart. “I’m sure visitors will enjoy the trail and other amenities along with watching the landscape change and evolve as we continue with habitat restoration at the site.”
The preserve protects savanna and wetland habitat. The crescent-shaped sand dunes located in the preserve are relics from a time 15,000 years ago when the area was the shoreline of glacial Lake Wauponsee.
"This much anticipated preserve will provide additional recreational opportunities for southern Will County families,” said Board Commissioner Don Gould. “I'm honored to be a part of this effort."
READ MORE: RESTORING KANKAKEE SANDS
Creating a new trail and a picnic shelter at Kankakee Sands is the latest Forest Preserve improvement project that has provided public access to Will County’s many natural areas.
"I'm glad that we can open this new preserve and offer more opportunities for our residents to enjoy their forest preserves," said Commissioner Deb Militello. Gould and Militello represent District 6, which includes Kankakee Sands Preserve.
Kankakee Sands also is the site of a multiyear restoration project that includes drainage improvements, invasive species removal and the planting of specialized seeds that will replenish and expand native plant stock at the site. Some of the uncommon plants found at Kankakee Sands include: steeple bush, tall green milkweed, prairie Indian plantain, dark scaled sedge, royal fern, marsh phlox, cross-leaved milkwort, grass-leaved arrowhead and swamp saxifrage.
Kankakee Sands Preserve is part of the larger Kankakee Sands Region, which stretches from Will County into Indiana. The region is home to state-endangered Blanding’s turtles, shore St. John’s wort, primrose violet, northern cranesbill, early dark green bulrush; and state-threatened tubercled orchid and narrow-leaved sundew.
The Kankakee Sands Preserve access area is one of the last projects to be constructed with money from the District’s Capital Improvement Program. The program was funded by referendums approved by voters in 1999 and 2005. Many Forest Preserve amenities enjoyed by the public today were part of the 18-year program, including dog parks, new or expanded trails, fishing lakes, boat launches, picnic shelters, building renovations and the preservation of an additional 8,800 acres.
The new preserve access area will complement other preserve and trail offerings in the region including Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve, Evans-Judge Preserve, Forked Creek Preserve and the Wauponsee Glacial Trail, which stretches 22 miles from Joliet to Custer Park.
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