Now Open––Ethel's Woods
Lake County residents are able to experience the breathtaking beauty of Ethel's Woods Forest Preserve in Antioch when it opens Friday, October 18. The long-hidden landscape did not have public access while it underwent a major multi-year land restoration effort and public access improvements.
The public will soon enter Ethel's Woods from a new entrance drive on Miller Road leading to a 25-car parking lot. Other public access improvements to the 501-acre preserve include a toilet, 1.4 miles of gravel trails, and four scenic overlooks. Future plans include a pedestrian tunnel under Route 45 to safely connect Ethel's Woods to neighboring Raven Glen Forest Preserve via the Millennium Trail.
Providing public access and trail connections, as well as forming partnerships to create large adjoining open spaces, are part of the Lake County Forest Preserves 100-Year Vision and Strategic Plan," said Randy Seebach, director of planning and land preservation. What the public will see from the new overlooks is a separate project that has been taking place behind the scenes for more than a decade.
The majority of the work on the most ambitious restoration project we've ever undertaken is complete," said Jim Anderson, director of natural resources. "Transforming an impaired lake into a healthy, meandering stream took years of watershed planning and patience," he said. North Mill Creek, which originally flowed through the property, was dammed about 60 years ago to create the 53-acre Rasmussen Lake.
When the Lake County Forest Preserves acquired the property, the banks of Rasmussen were eroded with steep drop-offs. The basin was a mucky mess and Rasmussen ranked next to last in water quality among 162 lakes in Lake County. Dams are barriers to nature's cleansing process. The dam was removed and the lake was slowly drained to allow a new stream channel and floodplain to be constructed, ultimately returning the landscape to a more natural state.
We are now putting the finishing touches on the project," Anderson said. "We are improving the biodiversity of both the stream and the wetlands," he said. Funding assistance for the restoration work was provided by a $1.5 million Clean Water Act grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Visitors will find 170 acres of century-old bur oak, white oak, shagbark hickory and black walnut trees along the eastern edge of the preserve. The site's strategic location to neighboring Raven Glen Forest Preserve offers a direct linkage creating a large natural area. Large preserves such as this provide a natural greenway corridor for better land management, wildlife protection and expanded outdoor recreation opportunities.
In October 2020, the Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to name a forest preserve in tribute to Ethel Untermyer, who directed a successful referendum campaign in 1958 that formed the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Ethel took action to fulfill the request of her 3-year-old son, Frank, who wanted a place to play in the woods.