Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) Board Meeting
at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center
May 23, 2023
A tribute to Shelley Spencer was on the agenda. In 2015 she produced “Chicago’s True Nature” an Emmy award-winning documentary on the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPDCC).
She has been on the FPDCC’s Conservation and Policy Council taking part in the Council’s Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee.
The Friends of Northbrook Forest Preserve was organized in 1998 and received recognition for their volunteer work in Somme Woods, Somme Prairie Nature Preserve, and Somme Prairie Grove Nature Preserve in northeast Cook County. The groups “hands on” restoration includes brush control, prescribed burns, chainsaw safety, and invasive species control. Over decades this group has contributed thousands of work hours to restoring the health and biodiversity of the preserves.
Commissioner Dennis Deer was reappointed to the Board of Directors of NeighborSpace, an affiliate partner of the Forest Preserve along with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District. NeighborSpace is a nonprofit urban land trust in Chicago that supports gardens with dedicated community groups. NeighborSpace has acquired vacant lots and provides basic insurance, access to water, protection of land from development, links to resources, and technical assistance so community groups can focus on gardening.
A brownfield is a property that is underutilized or vacant that may have environmental issues that prevent redevelopment. The Cook County Dept of Environment and Sustainability will provide American Rescue Plan Act funds up to $1.5 million to the preserves in Brownfield Program demolition, environmental assessment and environmental remediation services for an estimated 65 structures. The plan is to increase green space for outdoor recreation.
Illegal dumping of garbage such as construction debris, tires, hazardous waste, household appliances, electronics, landscape waste on forest preserve land, waters, beaches or down storm sewers is an ongoing pollution problem when perpetrators won’t use legitimate waste disposal and FPDCC has to bear the cleanup costs. It is hard to monitor 70,000 acres for this “fly dumping” as a lot of dumping happens at night. Three agenda items were referred to the Finance Committee that proposed to raise the uppermost fine to $750 from $500 for each offense. Violators caught will be held liable for the cost of legal waste disposal as well as the cost to replace or repair the property damage from the illegal dumping.
Sagawau Environmental Learning Center is in Lemont IL and has 2.6 miles of walking trails which in the winter are groomed only for cross-country skiing. Sagawau offers ski lessons and rents equipment. Sagawau Canyon has the only natural exposure of bedrock in Cook County- guided walks can be scheduled. The visitor center has many exhibits and its website lists many events and programs.
Observer - Michele Niccolai
Individual authors are credited at the end of each report.