BY ANDREW MORKES, FOUNDER & AUTHOR OF NATURE IN CHICAGOLAND
The Forest Preserves of Cook County feature 70,000+ acres of beautiful public land. Its prairies, forests, wetlands, lakes, rivers, streams, and savannah provide excellent opportunities for hiking, biking, paddling, fishing, horseback riding, running, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, swimming, and other forms of outdoor recreation. It has six beautiful nature centers, five campgrounds, more than 350 miles of trails, nearly 300 picnic groves, 11 golf courses, a zipline and adventure park, and even spots to fly drones and model airplanes.
And if that’s not enough for you, Forest Preserves of Cook County has 27 Illinois Nature Preserves and five Illinois Land and Water Reserves. These high-quality natural areas and habitats of endangered and threatened species are considered the “best of the best” of the natural lands in the state. I love the Forest Preserves of Cook County so much that I featured more than 20 of its preserves in my book, Nature in Chicagoland.
But the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) need your help! It needs funds to pay for long-deferred maintenance, acquire more land, restore an additional 20,000 acres of habitat, create new programs for visitors, and double the size of its Conservation Corps.
You can help fund the FPCC by voting YES for Clean Air, Clean Water, and Wildlife during early in-person voting, on your mail-in ballot, or in-person on Election Day (November 8, 2022).
By voting YES, you will be approving a property tax increase of 0.025 percent. This will amount to less than $1.66/month for the vast majority of Cook County homeowners. This is a miniscule financial tradeoff considering the benefits that are provided by the preserves. Eighty percent of Cook County residents live within five miles of a forest preserve, and visits have increased significantly in recent years. More than 62 million visitors enjoy the preserves each year—more than eight times the number of visitors at our nation’s most popular national park. If the referendum passes, the levy will generate an additional $43 million annually for the forest preserves. Currently, less than 1 percent of the property taxes levied on an average home in Cook County goes to FPCC.
In addition to the recreational opportunities that the Forest Preserves of Cook County provide to area residents, the preserves offer many other benefits. Here are just a few reasons why you should vote YES on the referendum to protect and grow the preserves.
- More than 100 threatened and endangered species live in or pass through the preserves during spring and fall migrations. The preserves protect these species.
- The forest preserves filter pollutants from surface water, and their vast stretches soak up rainwater and reduce flooding in waterways and basements.
- The preserves filter our air and improve air quality—improving the health of people with asthma and other respiratory challenges.
- The leafy expanses of the preserves reduce the urban heat island and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Studies show that visits to natural areas are good for one’s mental health. Better-funded and larger preserves equal improved mental health.
- The popular Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Botanic Garden sit on forest preserve land and are partly funded by the district. If the referendum passes, more funding will be available to support these great places for kids, beauty, and outdoor education.
- If the referendum is passed, more career opportunities will be available for county residents—including summer jobs and scholarships for students.
If you’ve not visited the Forest Preserves of Cook County, I encourage you to do so in any season. Its 70,000+ acres of diverse ecosystems make it feel like we have a national park right here at home. In fact, the cumulative acreage of the forest preserves is larger than almost 20 national parks. You can get lost—in a good way—in the wilds of the FPCC and see all types of wonderful things. Click here to learn more about the referendum and the #VoteYesForestPreserves campaign. VOTE YES On November 8 for Clean Air, Clean Water, and Wildlife Protection In Cook County.
Still need to be convinced regarding the beauty and value of the Forest Preserves of Cook County? If so, check out my 11 favorite destinations in the preserves (other than Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden):
Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve: The Wildest Place in Cook County
Bluff Spring Fen: A Fen-tastic Nature Experience in Far Western Cook County
Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve: “Forests” of Wildflowers, a Rare Prairie Ecosystem, and Great Birdwatching
Sand Ridge Nature Center: Indoor and Outdoor Education and Fun in All Seasons and Visit Sand Ridge Nature Center for a Wonderful Winter Experience
Black Partridge Woods: Cool Ravines, Great Hiking, and 6 Other Reasons to Visit
Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center: Not Your Parents’ Little Red Schoolhouse
Spears Woods: Room to Roam Amidst Rolling Hills, Sloughs, and Oak Woodlands
Orland Grassland: A Respite From Malls, Motorways, and Modernity
Red Gate Woods: Hawks and Hills, Sloughs and Snakes, and Ghosts and Buried Nuclear Waste, Oh My!
River Trail Nature Center: Birdwatching, Hiking, and Much More
Sagawau Environmental Learning Center: The Only Canyon in Cook County, Great Hiking and Cross-Country Skiing, and Much More
Copyright (text/photos) Andrew Morkes
Looking for some great nature destinations in Chicagoland? If so, I just published Nature in Chicagoland: More Than 120 Fantastic Nature Destinations That You Must Visit. It features amazing destinations (including for birding) in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Click on the title to learn more. The book (306 pages, 210+ photos) is only $18.99. Click here to learn more and purchase the book.
ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.
3 thoughts on “8 Reasons You Should Vote Yes for the Cook County Forest Preserves on Election Day and 11 Spots to Visit”
Thanks for this great post. I love your book as it is both practical and heartfelt.
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Thanks for your kind words, Henrietta! I hope the referendum passes, and writing the book was a joy. I hope to publish another book about even more Chicagoland destinations in the next year or two.