Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine


  Office phone numbers:  

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.


Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

  The Cook County Law Library is the second largest County law library in the nation.

Cook County Forest Preserve District has big plans to get better

Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Daily Southtown

The goal is to get you off the sofa, out of the house and onto a path toward better health and a greater appreciation for nature.

To mark its 100th anniversary, the Cook County Forest Preserve District is looking at ways to improve on and expand recreational offerings in its roughly 68,000 acres of woods, prairie and wetlands.

A significant part of the district’s recreational master plan that was enacted a year ago is a newly approved trails master plan that will bring improvements and changes to many of the district’s hundreds of miles of trails, including several in the Southland.

District spokeswoman Karen Vaughan said the trails plan was created with input from many of the district’s most active trail user groups, including Trails for Illinois, Friends of the Forest Preserves, Chicago Area Runners Association, Chicago Area Mountain Bikers and the Horsemen’s Association.

Among the local projects set to begin by June is installing a paved trail around the 960-acre Orland Grassland, which lies southwest of 167th Street and LaGrange Road. The nearly 5-mile path will accommodate bicyclists and equestrians as well as pedestrians. And it will hopefully encourage hikers to enter the grassland via footpaths to gaze upon birds, turtles and other animals as well as protected ecosystems.

The project is not without controversy, however. Pat Hayes, site steward for the Grassland, said she’s all for getting more people into the area to learn about its uniqueness and importance.

But she and other environmentalists have concerns about how the new trail might affect animals that use the southeast section of the preserve. The path will separate a wetland from the grassland, forcing nesting birds to cross the trail with their young to get from one habitat to another.

Among the birds found within the Orland Grassland are the Henslow’s Sparrow, Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow and Bobolink.

“We know people will learn a lot by using the new trail,” Hayes said. “We just have this angst about the eastbound section.”

She said the villages of Orland Park and Tinley Park want the trail and the forest preserve district is trying to accommodate all parties.

“We’re not against bike trails. We realize that if we don’t give the bicyclists a path, they may create their own,” she said. “Still, if we had our druthers, the path would not go up along LaGrange Road. It would be C-shaped instead of a loop.”

District spokesman Don Parker said staff “took the ecological value of the site into account, most importantly the decision to create a loop trail instead of one that runs through the site’s interior. In response to stakeholder feedback, we adjusted the trail’s placement in several places to minimize impacts to sensitive areas, but in some places it wasn’t possible for safety and other reasons.

“We’re confident we’re putting the best solution into place to allow the public to see and experience this beautiful site while protecting it as habitat for grassland and wetland birds and many other creatures,” Parker said.

“Grassland birds nest basically on the ground in clumps of grass,” Dave Kircher, landscape architect for the district, said. “You’ve also got a number of other wetland-sensitive species that use this site. It’s in a key area where it is a stopover from other points. It’s kind of an island here so birds come in, use this site for a rest.”

Kircher said the paved trail, along with the inland footpaths, will enable visitors to get closer to nature. He expects the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish this summer its restoration of the grassland preserve, which has included brush cutting and removing invasive plants and trees as well as drain tiles installed decades ago by farmers.

“When that’s done, it will bring this area back to a state of what it was like before there was agriculture,” Kircher said, adding that installing the trail and signage is expected to be completed by late fall.

The Orland Grassland project is just one of many improvements the forest preserve district plans in the coming years. Additional Southland projects are planned for the Thorn Creek preserves, Calumet-Sag Trail, Oak Forest Heritage Preserve and Burnham Greenway.

The projects grew out of an in-house study of the trail system as well as user surveys, said Kindy Kruller, senior planner for the district.

Among the improvements the public asked for were clearer trail maps and better signs regarding amenities, such as water fountains, portable toilets and call boxes, she said. In addition, those who use the trails and recreational facilities offered ideas for increased and improved programming.

The trails master plan is intended to provide baseline information on the trail system, recommend new policies for managing trails, create a process for assessing requests to improve unrecognized trails and prioritize future improvement projects, Vaughan said. She said it also describes the need for more staff and volunteers to adequately fund, maintain and police the system as it continues to expand.

There are an estimated 40 million visits each year to the Cook County forest preserves, where people can enjoy bicycling, hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities. This winter saw a record-breaking number of cross country ski rentals, Kruller said.

Despite the seemingly high number of forest preserve visitors, the district recognizes that there are still many people who have yet to explore what the forest preserves have to offer, she said.

“We hear every day about this connection between health and the outdoors and physical activity,” Kruller said. “The forest preserves are a great way to be outdoors and make that connection with nature.”

One downside to having so many distinct groups using the trails is that bicyclists, pedestrians and equestrians don’t always get along. For that reason, Kruller said, May is being designated as Share the Trails Month, when the district will emphasize trail etiquette and better ways for users to enjoy the trails together.

Recent Headlines

Judge: Labor unions don't owe non-union state workers refunds, despite unconstitutional fees
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Cook County record

Recovery Behind Bars: Cook County Jail’s Opioid Treatment Program
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Medill Reports

The language of justice: Court interpreters fight for client rights and their rights in Cook County
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Medill Reports

Cook County General Hospital's $90-Million Redevelopment Saves a Chicago Icon
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Engineering News Rec ord

Preckwinkle sends out harassment survey to staff after harassment controversy in her office
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Illinois Land Title Association Granted Summary Judgment in Case against Cook County Recorder of Deeds
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Illinois State Bar Association

Grand Jury Indicts Debt Collector of Bribing Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown
Friday, March 15, 2019
WBBM Chicago

Indictment: Cook County's hired debt collector charged with bribing county officials to secure county contract
Friday, March 15, 2019
Cook County record

Karen Chavers Honored as 2019 Unsung Heroine
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Special to

Pappas to announce deadline for Cook County property owners to pay late taxes
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Courts Cause Confusion For Woman Trying To Resolve Her Case
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
CBS Chicago

Census changes raise fears of Illinois undercounting
Monday, March 11, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Sheriff Warns of Apple Phone Scam
Monday, March 11, 2019

Caller poses as Apple to get victims personal info in scam targeting Cook County residents
Monday, March 11, 2019
WGN Chicago

Should Young Adults Be Sent To Juvenile Courts?
Sunday, March 10, 2019
NPR Radio

Cook County Jail hires 2nd consecutive mental health professional as warden
Wednesday, March 06, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Lawsuit: Sheriff jailed dozens because of faulty electronic monitoring devices
Monday, March 04, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Woman dies while in custody at Cook County Jail
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Fox 32

City considers landmarking old Cook County Hospital
Friday, March 01, 2019
Gazette Chicago

Judge: State constitution doesn't force Cook County to spend $250M more on roads, transport projects
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Cook County Rrecord

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.