Cook County Forest Preserves District (FPDCC) Board Meeting (Virtual)
May 19, 2020
Superintendent Arnold Randall opened the remote online virtual meeting mentioning Covid-19 challenges. Posts regarding Covid-19 state that until May 31, all public restrooms are closed, visitors are to wear a mask and are asked to follow social distancing guidelines (staying 6 feet from others) and keep moving. Until further notice no picnics or sports on properties. Dog parks are closed, following CDC guidelines. For Memorial Day weekend the FPDCC asked people to stay home and preserves had parking closures to limit the size of crowds. Golf courses and fishing lakes in the City of Chicago are closed. The FPDCC meets daily regarding management of sites. On its website, there is a page dedicated to Covid-19 covering Events, Locations and Precautions. Because of Covid-19, there are revenue shortfalls.
The Des Plaines river and many waterways run through FPDCC properties and the district routinely deals with flooding and these properties hold the majority of rain runoff. During recent rains, trails and parking lots were flooded. No canoeing or kayaking was allowed on waterways due to danger of higher flow. Visitors should check site websites before going and exercise care near water.
A Forest Preserves Tree Protection and Preservation manual was adopted. This manual was developed after receiving a grant via the Morton Arboretum from the US Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program because of its goal to help people connect with nature in urban forests. This manual includes many of the district's practices with added detail and clarification. FPDCC has a diverse number of tree species and needed a handbook of policies for protecting trees and ecosystems and for construction projects involving outside workers.
Horizon Farms, around 400 acres, is a former equestrian estate in Barrington Hills. FPDCC owns most of the property. It is temporarily closed and the Board gave the go ahead to negotiate for the remaining property to secure the right for public access.
Two Intergovernmental agreements between FPDCC and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) were authorized. MWRD needed the right to used FPDCC property for two of its projects. First one is 1st Avenue in Maywood for storm water improvements to alleviate chronic flooding conditions that affect access to several hospitals including Loyola U Medical Center. The second MWRD project is the reconstruction and maintenance of the McCook levee along the Des Plaines river.
Authority was given to FPDCC to register Bergman Slough as an Illinois Land and Water Reserve (ILWR) through the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission. This approximately 280 acre preserve is adjacent to the Village of Palos Park. The addition of Bergman Slough would establish FPDCC's 5th ILWR.
Authorization was given to accept a Grant Award from the Nature Conservancy via the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save Our Great Lakes Program. This grant will help to restore and enhance habitats of Burnham Prairie, that are attractive to birds. It will also help the Sand Ridge Nature Preserve, South Holland, which contains a rare dune and swale remnant and a learning center for the natural and cultural history of the Calumet Region- the Illinois and Indiana counties on the south shore of Lake Michigan.
Financial arrangements were approved for the three Aquatic Centers, if needed, for the 2020 summer season. At this time, the centers will not open Memorial Day weekend and FPDCC is assessing and waiting for guidance from the state if they could be opened later in the 2020 summer season.
Calendar of Events: Due to Covid-19, all events have been canceled up to the beginning of August. On the website home page, under "The Latest" is "Nature at Home: Videos, Activities and More". At this time there is no Fall Program guide. Also recommended are the Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Botanic garden websites for activities and things to do.
Due to Covid-19, FPDCC has a serious decline in revenue: loss of taxes, permit and pool fees, concessions. There is a hiring freeze and a hold on construction/development/landscaping projects.
Observer: Michele Niccolai Meeting length: 1 hour
Individual authors are credited at the end of each report.