Oriole Grove Master Plan in Progress
In fall 2020, our planning staff prepared two concept plans that explored a range of ideas and opportunities for public access improvements and natural resource restoration at Oriole Grove in Lake Bluff.
The public was able to view the plans and provide comments in-person at an open house on September 22, 2020, and during a special virtual meeting of the Planning Committee on October 26, 2020. A six-week online comment period was also offered through November 9, 2020, to gather additional public input.
Based on the feedback received from the public, and from partners and commissioners, we have prepared a preliminary master plan that will be shared with the District's standing committees in early 2021.
Existing Condition Master Plan Concept A Master Plan Concept B Preliminary Master Plan
View Committee Meeting Discussions
August 31 Planning Committee Video
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Implementation of Project Goals
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.
Currently the Oriole Grove Master Plan improvements are not funded. "When we gained full ownership of Oriole Grove, only a year ago, 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.
"Our intention is to finalize a master plan, and to establish cost estimates and potential funding sources for its implementation," Kovach said. 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. There may also be opportunities to fund part of the project through grants.
Questions or Comments? Contact Director of Planning and Land Preservation, Randy Seebach, at 847-968-3262, or via email at OrioleGrove@LCFPD.org.