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Forest Preserves mark National Public Lands Day with a family party near the Skokie Lagoons

Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Chicago Tribune
by KARIE ANGELL LUC

Sharing wildlife photos are, from left, are Arno Huang of Glencoe, Ed Samson of Northbrook and Ed Wagemann of Oak Park at the Party for the Preserves at Forest Way Grove at the Skokie Lagoons near Glencoe on Sept. 26, 2020. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

The Forest Preserves of Cook County threw a party over the weekend to celebrate National Public Lands Day.

From morning until night on Sept. 26, visitors could participate in multiple activities and programs at regional forest preserve locations. On Saturday afternoon, Tim Mondl, north zone program coordinator for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, staffed the “Party for the Preserves” tent at Forest Way Grove at the Skokie Lagoons.

The purpose of the event was a lesson in how public lands and people can connect.

"What it means for animals, for flora, for everything in the ecosystems,” Mondl said. “And more than anything else, understanding how important nature is in their world.”

At Forest Way Grove, families could take part in a scavenger hunt, nature journaling, help clean up the public lands or take a guided bike ride around the lagoons.

“People feel better when they go outside, when they feel the air and the sunshine,” said Teri Radke, stewardship program aide with the volunteer resource department.

While working, Radke talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic has made an impact on the preserves.

“During this time, people have had a kind of a renaissance in nature watching because they’ve been home,” Radke said. "And they suddenly realize what they’ve been missing. And I think that whenever people go out in a natural area, they feel like they’ve come home.”

Katie Grundin, program specialist for the campgrounds at the forest preserves, said the preserves were starting to feel like fall as autumnal colors are becoming apparent.

Around the party tent, there were numerous families picnicking, spending time on hammocks and in tents and riding bikes. Dogs and people were seen on the walkways and bike path.

“I don’t think I’d live in the city if it wasn’t for these paths and a way to get out of the city hustle bustle,” said cyclist Maureen O’Brien of Chicago.

Curious visitors stopped by the tent to check out the free literature. Cyclists like O’Brien could register on the spot for the guided bike tour.

“During COVID and quarantining, the outdoors has become incredibly important and an awesome tool for our mental health and physical well being,” Grundin said. “I hope people realize that and realize the importance of taking care of it so that it’s here forever.”

Ed Wagemann of Oak Park, a cycling tour guide, escorted cyclists on the five-mile ride.

The Skokie Lagoons cycling course has, “a lot of beautiful scenery, just a nice, easy ride,” Wagemann said.

Arno Huang of Glencoe also took the first cycling tour.

“I live nearby and it’s great to have the forest preserves,” Huang said. “I am an often user and I’m in the forest preserves all of the time.”

Karie Angell Luc is a freelance reporter.



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