The District’s youth group camping program is changing this year to provide more outdoor learning options for today’s youth and their leaders.
The program, which features a 50 percent camping fee discount for youth groups, now offers flexible programming that can be delivered at four of the District’s campgrounds during a campout. Programs can be scheduled at Hickory Creek Preserve – Cleveland Road Access, Forked Creek Preserve – Ballou Road Access, Hammel Woods – DuPage River Access, and McKinley Woods – Frederick’s Grove in conjunction with a youth group campout reservation.
Scout, 4-H, church and other youth organizations will be able to schedule team building, forest discovery and nature sensory hike programs led by the District’s interpretive naturalists. Youth groups qualify for discounted pricing for programs delivered by interpretive naturalists at the preserve where they are camping.
Booking a campout in the forest preserves is a wonderful way to make memories and experience the great outdoors, said Tina Riley, facility supervisor at Four Rivers.
“The District’s preserves offer wonderful opportunities to unplug and experience nature – including the bounty of plants and animals that live in Will County,” she said. “The preserves that contain campgrounds offer a variety of trails and trail connections for exploration, hiking or biking. Some have access to fishing and canoe/kayak launches. Camping provides many benefits for young people, including team building, individual confidence, a connection to nature ‘in their own backyard’ and the skills to camp, all of which will benefit them for their lifetimes.”
Other youth group camping program options include:
- Youth group leader workshops. Training programs can be scheduled for leaders who need help feeling confident organizing and directing a youth group campout. Experienced staff can provide planning guidance, offer packing and meal suggestions, provide valuable tips for success, and even help leaders plan fun activities at the campsites. To line up a workshop for six or more leaders who are ages 18 or older, call Four Rivers Environmental Education Center at 815.722.9470.
- Visitor Center Programs. Youth groups also can request programs at the District’s visitor facilities: Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, Isle a la Cache Museum, Plum Creek Nature Center or Monee Reservoir Visitor Center. Contact the facility directly to request programs or talk to an interpretive naturalist about customizing a program for your group. The Youth Program Page lists the specific topics/programs offered at each location.
- Six Camping Locations. Hickory Creek Preserve – Cleveland Road Access campground is a Forest Preserve campground that is dedicated to youth groups. It can accommodate up to 60 campers and it features a hand pump for water, portable latrines, picnic tables and campfire rings. Five other public campgrounds are available to youth groups: Forked Creek Preserve – Ballou Road Access, Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Hammel Woods – DuPage River Access, McKinley Woods – Frederick’s Grove and Messenger Woods Nature Preserve.
- Discounts. Youth groups receive a 50 percent discount on camping rates, which is $10 per night per campsite for county residents and $20 per night per campsite for non-residents. Each campsite can accommodate up to 6 campers, and at Hickory Creek Preserve – Cleveland Road Access the sites allow up to 12 campers. Reservations must be made in person. The discount will not apply using the online registration. The discounted rate for programming is $25 per program (group size limits apply).
- Visitor Center Excursions. Plum Creek Nature Center and Isle a la Cache Museum are great places to visit in conjunction with a Will County forest preserve campout. Facility hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Both facilities offer self-guided exhibits and activities and access to a variety of trails and recreational opportunities. Both sites are free to visit. If you are bringing a large group, it’s a good idea to call ahead.
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