Suffredin- An Advocate for All of Us  

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 first blood bank in the world was established at Cook County Hospital by Dr. Bernard Fantus in 1937.

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

Measles Exposure Reported in Chicago
Monday, May 20, 2019

News from the Cook County Health System
Friday, May 17, 2019
Special to

Cook County Health Recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Daily Herald

Skokie plans for road improvements near Edens Expressway: 'It’s desperately needed'
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Skokie Review

5 Chicago hospitals earn D grades for patient safety in new report, Northwestern slips to a B
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin: Backward Glances
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County Eliminated Its Gang Database, But Advocates Say Harm Continues
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Cook County Housing Authority Proposal Targets the 'Missing Middle'
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Evanston RoundTable

Census Citizenship Question Could Hurt Citizens, Noncitizens Alike
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

News from Friends of the Forest Preserves
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Special to

Cook County commissioners get earful about soon-to-be-destroyed gang database
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Detainee dies days after suicide attempt at Cook County jail
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Curious City How Chicago Women Created The World’s First Juvenile Justice System
Monday, May 13, 2019
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

Cook County report: Sharp drop in jail population, but crime did not jump
Friday, May 10, 2019
Injustice Watch

Will Cook County be home to the next big measles outbreak? Researchers think so.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Chicago Tribune

May is Prime Time for Birding in the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Thursday, May 09, 2019
Special to

More Babies Are Illegally Abandoned Than Turned Over Through Illinois’ Safe Haven Law In Cook County
Thursday, May 09, 2019
CBS Chicago

Empty businesses may lose county tax incentives
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle

As new DCFS report highlights failures, Cook County guardian says 'inept' child welfare agency is ‘not doing its job ... at every level’
Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Cook County passes bill to stop discrimination against tenant applicants
Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Chicago Crusader

all news items

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