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What We Do

Preserves & Trail Projects

Improvement Projects

We are working on projects and plans that will help create new trails and improve public access and natural resource restoration at preserves throughout Lake County. Check closure and construction status »

Duck Farm Off-Leash Dog Area | Lake Villa

The improved Off-Leash Dog Area will be entirely fenced and feature a large open area, a separate enclosed area for small dogs weighing less than 25 pounds, shade shelters with seating, drinking water for dogs and people, toilets and parking lot.

The project features improvements compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including paved parking stalls, sidewaks to the restrooms, seating and drinking fountains.

To ensure the new area is ready for continuous dog traffic, it’s anticipated to remain closed until Memorial Day 2025. We thank you for your patience while improvements are made.

During construction, all other portions of the off-leash dog area will be open. Visitors should use the existing gate at the east end of the parking lot (by the existing restroom). Click on the Improvement Plan Map button below to see a map of what area will be closed and how to access the open areas.

Improvement Plan Map

Project Background

The District approved an ADA Transition Plan in 2017. One of the priorities was to address the Off-Leash Dog Areas. As part of the plan, the District designed the Waukegan Savanna Off-Leash Dog Area to meet ADA requirements and opened the facility in the fall of 2019. The next area of focus was the Duck Farm Off-Leash Dog Area. An improvement plan was designed and engineering was completed in 2022. The District is performing the construction with its own crews.

Questions or Comments? Contact Site Improvement Project Manager David Cook at 847-968-3280 or via email:

Fort Sheridan | Lake Forest

Great Lake Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), working through the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) program, has collaborated with the Lake County Forest Preserves, Lake Forest Open Lands Association and Openlands on a large-scale coastal ecosystem restoration project at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve in Lake Forest, Illinois. This project has been ongoing since 2011 and work was implemented in two phases. Both phases are now complete.

Phase I Completed

In Phase I, extensive construction and restoration work was conducted to restore natural features, landscapes and species in the uplands, ravines and along the Lake Michigan lakeshore. The project extended from Lake Forest Open Lands Association property to the north and through Openlands property on the southern end. 

Phase II Completed

In Phase II, we partnered with the ACOE to restore nearshore habitat for aquatic species found in Lake Michigan by installing underwater living reefs along 1.5 miles of lakeshore. This work was completed in July and August 2020. The reefs were built from tree trunks and branches, root wads, limestone slabs, glacial erratic boulders, cobble and sand. These structures act as human-made reefs to provide submerged habitat for fish and wildlife. They also help stabilize the nearshore lakebed and coastline. Cranes and other heavy equipment were used to install these materials from barges stationed off the lakeshore.

Ongoing Through 2025

Now that work for Phase I and II is complete, ACOE and its contractor will conduct ongoing maintenance and adaptive management in these areas until 2025. This work includes monitoring and management of the reef structures and remediation if necessary.

Check our Interactive Trail Map for up-to-date information about the status of the lakeshore.

Questions, comments, updates? Contact Pati Vitt, Director of Natural Resources, at 847-968-3285. You may also contact Vanessa Villarreal, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Officer, at 312-846-5330.

Lakewood | Wauconda

Lakewood Master Plan Improvements in Progress

Our Board of Commissioners approved a master plan for Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda in January 2020. When all work is implemented, the improvements will provide improved accessibility and a more enjoyable experience. The preserve will be properly sized, accommodate future needs and reduces short- and long-term operating costs. Work to prepare the site for construction took place from 2021 to early 2023 and included removal of undesirable vegetation and unneeded infrastructure. Engineering, architectural design, gaining permits, and bid solicitation also took place.

Global supply chain issues and construction industry volatility delayed the timing of the projects. The Net-Zero Facility ground breaking occurred in September 2023. Construction of the Phase I site improvements began in November 2023. Expected completion and a public opening are planned for spring 2025. Want Progress Updates? Email

Please note that while portions of roads remain closed during construction, all trails, existing parking lots and open areas south of Ivanhoe Road will remain open and available for exploration. Thank you for your patience during construction.

Approved Master Plan   Executive Summary

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Project Background

In 2018, we initiated the master planning process to evaluate existing conditions and uses of Lakewood. The plan identified potential recreation, education and conservation improvements for the preserve. Learn more »

Project Area
Acquired in 1968, Lakewood has 2,835 acres and is the largest forest preserve in Lake County. It contains a diverse mix of land uses, facilities and natural resources. When combined with adjacent 1,039-acre Ray Lake Forest Preserve, contiguous holdings in this area total 3,874 acres or over six square miles. Lakewood is located east of Wauconda and lies within parts of Wauconda and Fremont Townships. The preserve is intersected by Illinois Route 176, Ivanhoe Road and Fairfield Road.

Project Goals and Objectives 
The new master plan for Lakewood supports the methods and systems needed to reach our 100-Year Vision and Strategic Plan by providing leadership and sound conservation practices, and by promoting an active, healthy lifestyle for people of all abilities to enjoy.

  • Provide an improved public access and recreation experience that is ADA compliant, properly sized, accommodates future needs, and reduces short-term and long-term operating costs.
  • Provide a new, more efficient design that consolidates uses within a smaller footprint, supports educational programs and community events, and satisfies current and future public access needs.
  • Replace and/or renovate critical operational infrastructure.
  • Dedicate new areas for restoration consistent with natural resource goals.

Questions or Comments? Contact Director of Planning Kevin Kleinjan at 847-968-3429 or via email:

Oriole Grove | Lake Bluff

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. 

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:

Ryerson | Riverwoods

Net-zero Energy Education Center Construction in Progress

As stewards of healthy landscape and proponents of climate resiliency, the Lake County Forest Preserves approved construction of the Ryerson Woods Education Center in Riverwoods. Construction began in early summer 2022.

A net-zero energy building produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, reducing the use of nonrenewable energy. The building uses cost-effective measures to reduce energy usage. Featured components and building materials chosen to meet net-zero energy building requirements include:

  • A 23.8kW system of rooftop solar panels, a similar size to what is found on a home or small business
  • HVAC systems and mechanical equipment with the highest efficiency ratings
  • Increased insulation values in the walls and roof
  • Strategic placement of high-performing windows to help regulate temperature
  • LED lighting throughout the building
  • Occupancy sensors in rooms and daylight sensors in perimeter spaces
  • EPA Indoor Air Plus requirements for paint and materials
  • Bird-friendly glass windows to help reduce bird strikes

“We want to raise the bar and set the example when it comes to green buildings and environmental sustainability. Our goal is that this new building will become a viable model of long-lasting energy-efficient design,” said Executive Director Alex Ty Kovach.

Ryerson Woods has been a center for environmental education and programming since it was acquired in 1972. Programs offered here, designed for all ages, are based on nature and the environment. The new facility replaces aging classroom cabins that previously hosted thousands of school children annually. It will be the first public building in Lake County to gain net-zero energy certification through the passive house institute.

The project is made possible as a result of an Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation grant, North Shore Gas, the Medline Foundation, private donations and support from Lake County residents.

Questions or Comments? Contact Landscape Architect Becky Mathis at 847-968-3270 or via email: