We envision that 100 years from now, Lake County will be a healthy and resilient landscape with restored and preserved natural lands, waters and cultural assets. Residents will take great pride in how their forest preserves make their communities more livable and the local economy more dynamic. Our vibrant communities will thrive, and future generations will protect and cherish these remarkable resources and the highly desirable quality of life that they provide.

Think Big

More than 58 years ago, Lake County resident Ethel Untermyer was looking for an outdoor space for her son to play. She asked a friend about nearby preserves and was surprised to find that there were none. So the next day, she organized a countywide referendum to create the Lake County Forest Preserves. Inspired by Ethel’s foresight, we realized it was once again time to make big plans. In 2013, work began on a bold new 100-year vision to preserve and sustain Lake County’s natural landscape and extend community outreach and nature education efforts well into the future.  Learn more about our planning process »

“Based on our collective 100-year Vision for Lake County, our strategic plan paints a picture of our desired future,” said Ann Maine, President of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “This picture was formed from extensive input from a diverse group of advisors, including commissioners, staff, volunteers, and community partners.”

The 11-month strategic planning process began in August 2013, as advisors began to sketch out their visions for the future landscape of Lake County. “Our advisors’ visions were thoughtful, creative and transformative. Elements of the strategic plan are derived from those colorful ideas,” said Maine.
The 100-year Vision became the foundation of the strategic plan, which will guide decision-making efforts for leaders and staff of the Lake County Forest Preserves as they fulfill their mission to preserve and restore land. They will use the Vision’s core principles of leadership, conservation and people to protect the forest preserves and ensure that they serve as a model for improving the landscape throughout Lake County.
“The plans made today will become the reality for future generations,” said Alex Ty Kovach, Executive Director of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “We owe it to them to think big. Working toward this grand Vision will ensure that our great grandchildren enjoy a healthy and resilient landscape with restored and preserved natural lands, waters and cultural assets. We want to encourage an active outdoor lifestyle for children and adults by promoting the many public health benefits of trails, open space, nature appreciation, recreation and cultural experiences.”
To ensure the plan’s success, community advisors and Forest Preserve officials carefully considered potential roadblocks and circumstances that could impact future decision-making. For example, increasing population, decreased funding and other external forces could result in significant pressure to reconsider the use of undeveloped land. Continued development and urbanization bring new people to Lake County who need to be connected to nature and have access to open space, trails and opportunities to recreate outdoors.

Conserving and improving the biodiversity, wildlife habitat and water quality benefits that healthy ecosystems provide are vital for the County’s future. For example, wetlands that store floodwater and trees that deliver clean air and absorb excess carbon from our atmosphere provide vital protection to our communities. Cultivating future generations of stewards who will protect and cherish these remarkable resources is also necessary for these diverse natural communities to thrive.  
“In 1958 when the agency was founded, visionary people anticipated the growth that was coming to Lake County and took action to create the excellent forest preserves we now enjoy,” said Maine. “Today, we have nearly 31,000 acres of open space, thanks to the continued spirit of leadership and support from Lake County residents—the true owners of this land. Healthy, diverse and woven throughout our community, these beautiful natural lands and trails make the county more livable and the local economy more dynamic. Over the next 100 years, we need to create a strategic mindset that can adapt to a changing environment and sustain a desirable quality of life far ahead to the future.”

Painting a Picture of our Desired Future

The full plan includes the 100-Year Vision, Strategic Directions and Goals. The 25-year Strategic Directions identify the methods and systems needed to reach the Vision. The 10-year Goals associated with each strategic direction define the actual practices that will be used to implement the plan. The 1–5 year objectives define tactics for achieving the goals. Flip through the plan below to learn more.


Strategic Plan Updates

Our plan maps out the Strategic Directions, Goals and Objectives we will use to reach our 100-year Vision. These objectives define tactics that our Board and staff will implement over the next 1–5 years to achieve the Goals. They are grouped within the three pillars of our 100-year Vision for Lake County: Leadership, Conservation and People. View our 1–5 year objectives »

HALA-20140902-TE-2613_croppedObjective: Develop partnerships to create three 10,000-acre complexes that provide large-scale habitats for woodland, grassland and wetland species.
Update: In collaboration with The Conservation Fund, we developed a Green Infrastructure Model and Strategy (GIMS), which will guide regional, local and site planning by agencies, corporations and citizens of Lake County. The Lake County GIMS will aid the Forest Preserves and other agencies in planning and implementation efforts by providing a consistent modeling framework throughout the county, as well as a common vision for conservation of major landscape types. Learn more »

BACK_COVER-Instagram_Pick-Copyright_Chip_Williams_croppedObjective: Increase the number of Lake County schools that participate in an educational experience by 5 percent annually, to foster future generations of stewards, users and supporters.
Update: School-based education is the largest single type of contact between the Forest Preserves and Lake County youth. We are happy to announce that the goal has been met for 2016, giving thousands of Lake County school children an educational experience within their Lake County Forest Preserves. Learn how your school can get involved »

DPRT-WADS-20070920-JW-001-croppedObjective: Present focused public awareness messages and narratives that inspire people to interact with and support their forest preserves.
Update: In late 2015, we completed the final section of the Des Plaines River Trail, fulfilling a vision 54 years in the making for a contiguous trail and greenway along the river spanning the length of the county—from Russell Road just south of the Wisconsin border to Lake Cook Road. We celebrated this achievement in a big way by challenging the public to travel the entire 31.4-mile trail. Nearly 240 people accepted our DPRT Challenge. Many others took the Challenge by making a donation to our Preservation Foundation to support this Lake County treasure, and to help us keep it safe and clean.

INGR-20100812-126Objective: Establish processes for developing strategic partnerships that consider and protect our long-term interests.
Update: Mike Tully, our Chief Operations Officer, was recently named to the Board of Directors of the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO). NACPRO is a non-profit association through which park and recreation professionals communicate and collaborate about issues, best practices, and legislation bearing on the nation’s public parks and open spaces.

_CHW0219Objective: Balance new and existing resources with core activities to ensure long-term organizational stability
Update: We are one of very few forest preserve systems nationwide with a AAA bond rating. Ensuring public trust and confidence about our careful stewardship of your tax dollars is what drives the work of Steve Neaman, our Director of Finance, and members of his accounting and purchasing team. Steve and his team recently developed a 10-year rolling financial plan that is responsive to changing economic conditions. The plan ensures our continued financial and organizational capacity well into the future. 
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