Background Image

Who We Are


We are committed to open government and to providing access to financial information so you can feel confident about the stewardship of your tax dollars.

Our website is a comprehensive source of frequently requested information, including our annual budget, monthly expenditures, audits, administrative data, 100-Year-Vision and Strategic Plan, all Board meetings and actions, our IMRF employer cost and participation reports, and vendor contracts. We receive most of our funding through property taxes. Fees, other charges, grants, gifts and donations make up the balance. View financial and administrative information »


The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows you to access public records you may not find on our website. We maintain a comprehensive set of procedures, instructions and forms for requesting records in accordance with our FOIA rules and regulations. Request public records »

Doing Business With Us

Each year, we purchase millions of dollars of goods and services from a variety of contractors, vendors and businesses to help us complete large preserve and trail construction projects, implement land management efforts, acquire equipment and perform professional services. View current bids and proposals »

  Circa 1958 referendum campaign brochure.


To preserve a dynamic and unique system of natural and cultural resources, and to develop innovative educational, recreational and cultural opportunities of regional value, while exercising environmental and fiscal responsibility. 

As principal guardian of Lake County’s open space and natural areas since 1958, we set the standard in nature and historic preservation, and in outdoor recreation and education. The guiding elements of our mission remain focused on preservation, restoration, education and recreation. Acknowledged as a regional and national leader, we protect more than 31,100 acres of natural land and are the second largest Forest Preserve District in Illinois.


Ethel and Frank Untermyer, 1958.

Our story begins in 1957, with Ethel Untermyer and her 3-year-old son Frank who wanted to go exploring in the woods.

New to Lake County, Ethel and her young family had just moved from nearby Chicago and she was unfamiliar with the area. When Ethel asked a friend where the nearest forest preserve was, she was stunned to hear that Lake County had none. After all, Cook County already had 47,000 acres protected.

So the next day, she organized a countywide referendum to create the Lake County Forest Preserve District. It wasn’t an easy undertaking, but like any person who makes a difference, Ethel didn’t let early disappointments defeat her.

Just four people came to Ethel's first meeting. But she wasn’t deterred. She started driving her Studebaker throughout the county, frequently on dirt roads. She spoke with groups and garnered support. She sought out local leaders and got a quick education in politics. Spurred to action by this inspired 33-year-old homemaker, other concerned citizens rose to the challenge and joined in the effort.

In those days, Lake County's population hadn't even reached 300,000, but people were already shaking their heads about the loss of open space and the fast pace of development. The first organization to endorse the referendum was the Lake County Farm Bureau. Unique to Illinois, forest preserve districts were designed to protect large natural areas. Education and recreation would be important offerings but primarily within that natural context.

By election day in November 1958, a groundswell of public support had emerged. The referendum passed with an overwhelming 60 percent of votes. Twenty days later, the Lake County Forest Preserve District was legally established in circuit court. An advisory committee of citizens was formed, with Ethel as its chair.


Ethel Untermyer, 1925–2009.

And in 1961, four years after her son Frank asked for a place to explore, the first preserve in Lake County was created: Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth.

Ethel’s Legacy

Ethel’s Woods Forest Preserve, a high-quality natural area in Antioch, is named in honor of her efforts to initiate the founding of the Lake County Forest Preserves. Ethel’s Woods is a lasting symbol of the difference one person can make for the benefit of many.

Ethel Untermyer passed away in September 2009.

It All Depends on the Acorn

An acorn contains a baby oak. If given the right support, it will grow into a mighty tree. Many obstacles can stand in the way: invasive species, habitat loss and climate change. Since 1958, the Lake County Forest Preserves has been a principal guardian of the county’s open space and natural areas. Oaks are the foundation of these natural areas. Without them, native plants and animals would disappear.

So, the health of the places we all enjoy, that we all have connections to—it all depends on the acorn.

Journalist Bill Kurtis gives you a glimpse of how the Forest Preserves restores habitat, educates the public and connects everyone to the healthy landscapes around them.

100-Year Vision and Strategic Plan

We envision that 100 years from now Lake County will be a healthy and resilient landscape with restored and preserved natural lands, waters and cultural assets. Residents will take great pride in how their forest preserves make their communities more livable and the local economy more dynamic. Our vibrant communities will thrive, and future generations will protect and cherish these remarkable resources and the highly desirable quality of life that they provide.

Learn more about our Vision and Strategic Plan

Land Acknowledgement

As a place that shares the intertwined stories of people and nature, the Lake County Forest Preserves is dedicated to preserving the unique ecosystems and history of northeastern Illinois. We acknowledge Native people as the original caretakers of the land the Forest Preserves now resides on. These are the traditional homelands of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi nations. Many other nations including the Miami, Illinois, Kickapoo, Peoria, Meskawki, Sauk & Fox, Winnebago, and Ho-Chunk have settled in, traveled through, and welcomed others to this area. American Indian groups still exist today despite the historic and cultural campaigns of removal. They maintain cultural traditions and call Lake County home. The Forest Preserves strives to build relationships with American Indian communities today.

Embracing Diversity

At the Lake County Forest Preserves we are committed to fostering a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion, seeks to understand our differences, and leverages the power of diverse perspectives to shape a brighter future.

Read our Diversity and Inclusion Statement


Need special accommodations? If you have a disability or require certain accommodations in order to observe or attend our meetings, programs or events, or have questions regarding accessibility of our facilities, please email or call our Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator at 847-968-3214. Learn more »

Photo and Video Disclaimer

Photos and videos are periodically taken of people participating in Forest Preserve District programs and activities. All persons registering for Forest Preserve District programs/activities or using Forest Preserve District property thereby agree that any photo or video taken by the Forest Preserve District may be used by the District for promotional purposes including its website or agency social media, promotional videos, brochures, fliers and other publications without additional, prior notice or permission and without compensation to the participant.