With the arrival of the long overdue warm weather I wanted to take a moment to highlight the tremendous progress that the Cook County Forest Preserve has made in the last few years, and the positive direction that we’re moving in.
Under the direction of President Toni Preckwinkle and Forest Preserve Superintendent Arnold Randall, the forest preserve has acquired new land, cleaned up areas that have been long unattended to, stopped property encroachments onto forest preserve land, and made the preserve more accessible to people who wouldn’t normally have the chance to experience its beauty.
Recently, the forest preserve took action to acquire nearly 400 acres of land from a foreclosed horse farm near Barrington at a bargain price to Cook County taxpayers. This is the largest purchase in nearly 45 years by the forest preserve, and opens the way for prairie restoration, improved wildlife habitat and increased public enjoyment for future generations.
Additionally, a new 2,050-square-foot boathouse has opened along the banks of the Busse Reservoir. As of April, the boathouse will be open to the public seven days a week and offers rentals of canoes, kayaks, rowboats and paddleboats, and rods and tackle can be purchased for fishing.
In 2011, I was happy to help cut the ribbon alongside President Preckwinkle for the new opening of the Cermak Family Aquatic Center in Lyons. The newly renovated facility provides cheap family-friendly fun in the summertime. Parking is free and admission is just $3 for kids 4 and up and $5 for adults.
The preserve is also undergoing an ambitious multi-year capital plan that includes a $15 million landscape and natural habitat restoration, an investment of $14 million in our bike trails, and over $20 million for our campgrounds, including the renovation of bunkhouses, new cabins, modern toilet and shower facilities, and the creation of new gathering spaces.
Like me, many of you may enjoy golfing in the forest preserves and taking advantage of the bargain prices available to county residents. Over the past several years, the forest preserves have greatly improved the condition of the courses and dramatically improved professional management through our partnership with Billy Casper Golf. I am proud of the work that they have done, all while keeping costs down and prices reasonable.
So please take time this spring and summer to experience all the treasures and beauty that the Cook County Forest Preserves has to offer our residents.
Jeff Tobolski is a Cook County commissioner for the 16th District and mayor of McCook