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 the 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.”
In the general election on November 5, 2008, Lake County voters approved a referendum of $185 million to support the mission and vision of their Lake County Forest Preserves. The referendum provided $148 million to purchase between 2,500 and 3,000 acres of land to expand existing preserves and create new open spaces. The balance of $37 million provided funds to complete trails, open new preserves, restore habitat for endangered wildlife and plants, and improve and renovate existing preserves and facilities. Read more about the updates below.