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Lakewood Forest Preserve Upgrades Forge Ahead

May 10, 2024 01:12 PM

Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda, the county’s largest forest preserve spanning 2,835 acres, is undergoing a transformation as the initial phase of a comprehensive master plan is underway.

“We are thrilled to charge ahead with the construction at Lakewood,” said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “We look forward to when visitors can again enjoy the beauty of the main recreation core of this sprawling, scenic preserve.”

A segment of the regional Millennium Trail, which connects the underpass tunnels at Route 176 and Fairfield Road and passes between Banana and Taylor lakes, will be paved to form part of a new loop. “Reconstruction will occur on portions of the trail, but it will remain open as much as possible with a grass detour in place when necessary,” Planning Director Kevin Kleinjan told the Forest Preserves’ planning and operations committees this week.

The 1.6-mile paved loop trail will connect to the Millennium Trail and provide an accessible route through woodlands, prairies, wetlands and around Taylor Lake. “The loop trail will provide access to a floating fishing pier, overlooks and an open area to provide ample opportunities for fishing, wildlife viewing, visiting or quiet reflection,” Kleinjan said. The trail is ideal for baby strollers and individuals using walkers and wheelchairs.

New and reconstructed interior roads, parking lots and toilets correct prior accessibility deficiencies and will provide convenient access to trails, shelter accommodations and a new Children’s Nature Play area.

The play area will provide varied experiences ranging from structured play elements composed of both natural and human-made materials, through a transitionary area nestled among mature native trees and culminating in an exploratory zone offering an immersive nature experience.

A 9,800-square-foot maintenance facility is nearly complete, replacing an outdated facility. This net-zero building, also referred to as a zero-energy building, will produce enough solar energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, reducing the use of nonrenewable energy. Employees are expected to move into the facility in early June. 

“Now that the maintenance building is nearly complete, we have significantly ramped up efforts on other areas of the project,” Kleinjan said. Existing asphalt pavement will soon be pulverized and repurposed for trail and roadway base material at Lakewood.

New utilities, including electric, wells, water lines and septic systems will replace undersized, outdated and failing infrastructure. Upgrades to these essential elements will further improve energy efficiency and reduce maintenance costs at the site.

Contingent on future funding, additional planned improvements include an all-season pavilion with restrooms, an additional open-air shelter a parking lot and sidewalks to connect site features.

Portions of the forest preserve will be closed throughout construction, with anticipated completion during the summer in 2025. The remainder of the expansive Lakewood Forest Preserve will remain open throughout construction, including: the Winter Sports Area with Millennium Trail and Fort Hill Trail access on the east side of Fairfield Road, just south of Route 176; the Lakewood Off-Leash Dog Area; the Gilmer Road parking lot with Fort Hill Trail access; and the parking lots and equestrian trails south of Ivanhoe Road.

Media Contact: Director of Planning Kevin Kleinjan, 847-968-3429,