Chicago outdoors: Camping in the Cook County forest preserves

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The idea of expanded camping options in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County is moving forward.

This is early in the process, but meetings are being held Wednesday and Thursday.

Here’s the latest word from the forest preserve district:

CAMPING IN COOK COUNTY Forest Preserve District of Cook County Releases Early Draft of its Camping Master Plan The Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) has published an early draft of its camping master plan. The plan is available for public viewing online at www.fpdcc.com/camping. The plan is working document, and remains in a conceptual phase. It will be presented to the public for feedback during a series of open meetings held on August 22 and August 23. The final version, incorporating public comments and operational assessments, will be complete in October. Work on the camping program is expected to begin in 2013. One of the goals of my administration has been to create meaningful and fun ways to connect our residents, especially children, with the natural treasures that exist throughout our County, said Forest Preserve District of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle. Camping is a phenomenal way to accomplish that goal, and we look forward to bringing public camping back to Cook County. Suggestions in the plan include: Day use camping sites throughout the District that will engage youth and families through new programs and recreation opportunities. Renovation of the cabins and barn at Camp Sullivan in Tinley Park and new cabins at Camp Reinberg in Palatine (existing cabins at Camp Falcon in Tinley Park, and at Camp Reinberg would be demolished); Two bunkhouses, each of which would sleep 32 people, at both Shabbona Woods (adjacent to the Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland) and the Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington (Crabtree would also hold six tent platforms); Six tent platforms in Thatcher Woods (River Forest, IL), which would serve as a base for canoe/kayak trips down the DesPlaines River; New primitive campsite at the Skokie Lagoons, accessible only by foot, featuring twelve tent platforms A new Camp Pine Woods along the DesPlaines River in Northbrook. The campground would feature 24 tent cabins arranged in pods to accommodate either groups or individuals, as well as multiple tent platforms; And the creation of a Legacy campground site along Bullfrog Lake in Pulaski Woods (Willow Springs, IL). The proposed legacy site includes a lodge that would sleep 80individuals, 12 family camping cabins and tent platforms; All of the proposed campsites are accessible to people with special needs and are intended to be available for rental by the general public, as well as organized youth groups. The lodge at the legacy site would also be available for weddings, conferences and corporate retreats. Public Meetings The Forest Preserve District will be hosting a series of open meetings to present the master plan and receive input from the public. These will take place: Wednesday, August 22, downtown Chicago at 1PM (69 West Washington, 22nd Floor) Wednesday, August 22, Little Red School House Nature Center at 7PM (9800 104th Ave, Willow Springs) Thursday, August 23, online at 1PM (visit www.fpdcc.com/camping to be redirected to the online meeting) Thursday August 23, River Trail Nature Center at 7PM (3120 Milwaukee Ave Northbrook) Registration for the meetings is requested, but not required. Please RSVP for the meetings by registering here: http://fpdcc.eventbrite.com About the Camping Master Plan The Forest Preserve District of Cook County began the process of developing a master plan for camping in early 2012. The goal of the plan was to analyze the effectiveness of existing camp programs, and assess whether there is a need within the County for additional camping experiences and programs to engage broader populations, such as families, retreat or reunion groups, day camps and people with special needs. Public input played an important role in developing the new Camping Master Plan. More than 1300 people took an online survey about camping in the Cook County during the spring. The Forest Preserve District also hosted a series of focus groups with relevant parties. The Forest Preserve District currently operates three overnight camps that are rented out to organized youth groups, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. In 2011, approximately 5000 people participated in camping stays at these three facilities. Three additional overnight camps are operated on District property by other organizations. There are no opportunities for adult and family camping within the District at this time. # # # Established in 1914, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County is the oldest and largest forest preserve system in the nation, maintaining more than 68,000 acres of open land for the education, pleasure and recreation of the public. The District strives to protect and restore the county’s diverse ecosystems, so all our unique native plants and animals can live and thrive. Each year, more than 40 million people use these lands and facilities to enjoy or study nature, bicycle, hike, fish, cross-country ski, picnic, golf, canoe, or simply relax in a large preserve that leaves urban life behind.

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