We were raised to believe that Cook County Forest Preserve land was hallowed ground. It was to be left untouched. If the wind blew down a tree, well, there it lay, moldering until it was returned fully to the earth. If a pagan cult, or a screwy bunch of teens, sacrificed a goat in the woods, well, there it lay until, you know, it was returned fully to the earth. If a patronage hack got the keys to a caretaker’s cottage to go with his do-nothing job and generous pension, well, there he lay. Unless he got really greedy and stupid and was shipped to the hoosegow where he would lay, moldering, until he was paroled and put in a slightly less cushy Forest Preserve job.
Sure, there were exceptions. There were family reunion picnics in the mowed areas, and making out in the paved areas and really making out in the offices. But not much changed in the so-called green necklace of woods which rings Chicago and which was created a century ago by visionary leaders who presumably never imagined just how low an inspired vision could get.
We’ll admit that things started to get slightly better in recent years. But only a bit. It took, in our estimation, the election of Toni Preckwinkle as Cook County board president, and concurrently Forest Preserve board president, to genuinely shake off the torpor.
In Forest Park and environs we are about to see the fruits of this awakening as the Forest Preserve District hones in on energetic plans for Miller Meadow.
Beginning in 2014, we’ll start to find two full soccer fields, a football field, ultimate Frisbee course, an 18-hole disc-golf strip, a model aviation flying field (yes, really), improved picnic groves, improved walkways, and a pedestrian bridge connecting the area to Loyola Medical Center. The county will also take the progressive step of actually removing invasive plant species from wooded areas and attempt to restore prairie. Plus, in case you never knew there was a river back in that thicket, the Forest Preserve is going to open specific viewing areas and build a canoe launch on the Des Plaines.
Of further interest to those Forest Parkers so determined to add a second dog park at the Altenheim, there won’t be a need since the county is adding a seven-acre fenced tract.
We admit to astonishment over this ambitious common sense sweeping the county government. But we plan to enjoy all of it.