Oriole Grove

WHERE IS THIS?
Preserve parking and trail access is available at Lake Bluff Open Lands at 250 Rockland Road
Lake Bluff,IL 60044
Acreage:
86 acres
Hours:
6:30 am to sunset, daily.

Oriole Grove

Locally known as Jensen Woods, this 86-acre preserve straddles the Lake Forest–Lake Bluff border and connects two community natural areas.

Running along the length of the Skokie River, the preserve sits directly between Lake Bluff Open Lands Association’s (LBOLA) Skokie River Prairie to the north and Lake Forest Open Lands Association’s Skokie River Nature Preserve to the south. Visitors can access Oriole Grove from either of these two local natural areas.

Within Oriole Grove there are 1.35 miles of grass trails, making it a great place for hiking and cross-country skiing. Bikes are not permitted. Please keep dogs leashed and on trails at all times, and pick up after them. Learn about our off-leash Dog Parks (permit required).

 

Active Project | Oriole Grove

Oriole Grove Master Plan Approved

On March 9, 2021, our Board of Commissioners approved a master plan for Oriole Grove Forest Preserve. The approved plan is consistent with the master plan goals. It also reflects feedback received from staff, commissioners, key stakeholders and the public on improved public access and recreation experiences for people of all ages and abilities that are respectful of the sites sensitive natural resources.

Approved Master Plan   Executive Summary

Implementation of Project Goals

Project Background
In 1980, the Lake County Forest Preserves acquired Oriole Grove jointly with the Illinois Department of Transportation as a potential flood water storage facility. The site was later declared unfeasible for flood storage purposes and remained in joint ownership until September 2019 when the Lake County Forest Preserves assumed full ownership. At 86 acres, Oriole Grove is a keystone preserve within a much larger tract of 282 acres of open space and natural areas along the Skokie River corridor. Lake Bluff Open Lands Association manages 35 acres to the immediate north and Lake Forest Open Lands Association manages 119 acres immediately to the south of Oriole Grove. Another 42 acres are dedicated Illinois State Natural Areas on private property. The site is considered a gem by local residents and was given the nickname Jensen Woods, named after Jens Jensen, the prominent landscape architect who designed the property in the early 1900s when it was owned by the Kelley family. 
 
While much of Oriole Grove is overgrown with invasive plants, volunteers and contractors have restored some portions of the site. The preserve offers 1.3 miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails with multiple surfaces ranging from deteriorated asphalt to natural surface trails. 
 
Goals of the Plan 

  • Provide an improved public access and recreation experience that is ADA compliant and reduces short- and long-term operating costs.
  • Create ways for the public to view and enjoy the cultural landscape feature along Jensen Pond.
  • Continue restoration efforts and dedicate new areas for improving the natural landscape that are consistent with our 100-year vision and landscape-scale conservation goals. 
  • Restore much of the original hydrology, create high-quality sedge meadow, control invasive species, and install aquatic, wetland and savanna plants. 

Funding
Currently the Oriole Grove Master Plan improvements are not funded but will serve as a starting point for discussion should funding opportunities arise through private donations and grants. "When we gained full ownership of Oriole Grove in September 2019, there were indicators that there may be local interest in moving the project forward through donations, along with a dedicated endowment for ongoing maintenance," said Executive Director Alex Ty Kovach. "We have more than $40 million in unfunded projects, several of those have been on the list for many years. There are no development dollars available at this time and the only way we can move an unfunded improvement project forward is through grants and donations."

As its charitable partner, the Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves is positioned to raise private dollars for the project if there is an interest in accelerating the funding timeline rather than waiting for traditional development dollars to be budgeted. 


Questions or Comments? Contact Director of Planning Kevin Kleinjan at 847-968-3429 or via email: OrioleGrove@LCFPD.org.

Activities

Amenities

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More About This Preserve

The Natural Scene

The preserve includes an old growth oak-hickory woodland, which features a large grove of massive bur and white oaks estimated to be over 220 years old. There is also an oak-basswood woodland and two grassland areas with remnant and restored prairie, including “Birch Prairie.”

Jensen excavated the large kidney-shaped pond to match a smaller one next to Green Bay Road. The pond’s good water quality supports regionally uncommon fish.

The preserve serves as a keystone in a larger landscape of 240 acres of protected natural areas with Lake Bluff Open Lands, Lake Forest Open Lands and private landowners owning the rest. Approximately 40 acres are dedicated as State Nature Preserve status. 

History

The preserve was originally a private estate for rail magnate William V. Kelley, who purchased the property in the early 1900s from John Mines, an immigrant farmer from Ireland. Hired to design the landscape was Jens Jensen, one of the most significant landscape architects in Chicago history. He also designed the J. Ogden Armour estate, portions of which are now known as Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve.

Preliminary_Sketch_Kelley_Estate

 Jen Jensen's preliminary sketch of the Kelley estate grounds.

Location

Parking is not available at Oriole Grove Forest Preserve.

Parking and trail access is available only from the Skokie River Prairie on Route 176, west of Green Bay Road in Lake Bluff, or the Skokie River Nature Preserve on the west end of Laurel Avenue, west of Green Bay Road in Lake Forest.

Please follow the rules specific to Lake Bluff Open Lands and Lake Forest Open Lands when using their properties.