Nature connections

2022 annual report

Our mission

The Forest Preserve District protects and enhances Will County’s natural and cultural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

An illustration of trees with the text, purpose.

Land acquisition

Highlights from 2022 include:

  • The agreement to purchase Hidden Oaks Nature Center and Hidden Lakes Trout Farm in Bolingbrook was made official in 2022. 
  • The acquisition of 73 acres of land, north of and adjacent to Black Walnut Creek Preserve in Crete Township. 
  • The purchase of 47.5 acres of land located within the Spring Creek Greenway, adjacent to Hadley Valley in Homer Township. 
  • The donation of 6.3 acres of land adjacent to Kraske Preserve in Crest Hill. 
A scenic view of Hidden Lakes during fall.

Preserve, visitor center and trail enhancements

Highlights from 2022 include:

  • A new exhibit hall, Four Rivers at the Confluence, opened at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. Exhibits include an interactive river table, a watershed sand table, birdfeeder and identification display, mussel exhibit, and a 2,000-gallon aquarium showcasing local fish species.
  • The Forest Preserve celebrated the opening of the newly acquired Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook with the Visions of Nature Art Exhibition.
  • Operations department crews began installation of 1,980 new trailhead signs at 396 Forest Preserve trail locations. The new signs include information on trail length, width, grade, surface, cross slope and obstructions. 
  • An All-Persons Trail was constructed at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. This accessible trail includes six interpretive signs located along the concrete walkway around the visitor center.
  • A new 3.5-mile section of Veterans Memorial Trail officially opened in Homer Township in fall of 2022. The new paved trail segment travels north from Spring Creek Greenway Trail in Hadley Valley preserve in New Lenox to the state-owned 159th Street Bikeway in Homer Glen. 

In 2023, we will:

  1. Continue to pursue land preservation priorities in the Spring Creek, Jackson Creek and DuPage River greenways, utilizing proceeds from the 2020 bond sale.
  2. Prepare a comprehensive Land Preservation Plan to help guide and direct future decision makers in developing new preservation programs for properties with the most conservation, recreation, and open space potential to meet our mission.

Land Management

In 2022, natural area restoration was conducted on more than 6,300 acres of District holdings, with efforts focused on 16 preserves located throughout the county.

Invasive Species Control

More than 11,300 hours were spent performing invasive species management on more than 4,800 acres in 2022. 

Prescribed Fire

In 2022, prescribed burns were completed on more than 2,700 acres. 

A perscribed burn at Lockport Prairie.

Regenerative Agriculture

The first acre of the local growers’ program was awarded in 2022. The program allows urban farmers to grow herbs and vegetables. They will also seed a pollinator buffer and use cover crops. The farmland will be available for site visits to educate the public on urban farming. In addition, in 2022, a total of 147 acres at Jackson Creek Preserve in Green Garden Township began the transition to organic and will become certified organic by 2025. 


In 2022, the Forest Preserve partnered with Midwest Bat Hub/NABat to deploy and maintain four bat detectors at Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve in Reed Township. The Forest Preserve also completed grassland bird surveys at seven preserves; wading bird nesting surveys at Lake Renwick Preserve in Plainfield and Rock Run Rookery in Joliet; and aerial surveys of deer populations at 29 preserves. Among other projects, seven populations of rare plant species were monitored at seven preserves in coordination with the Plants of Concern monitoring program. In addition, Forest Preserve volunteers participated in a number of wildlife surveys including the Calling Frog Survey at four preserves, the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network Survey at eight preserves, and the Illinois Odonate Survey at six preserves.

A monarch butterfly on milkweed.

In 2023, we will:

  1. Complete invasive species control and other natural resource best management practices on 4,100 acres of restored and remnant natural areas.
  2. Restore 60 acres of lands that were previously converted to agriculture in Sand Ridge Savanna Nature Preserve in Wilmington and Hadley Valley Preserve in Homer Glen.
  3. Manage agricultural lands with regenerative practices to improve soil conditions or grassland bird habitat including 3,200 acres of row crop and 700 acres of grass hay.
  4. Expand opportunities for volunteers to engage in resource management activities.

In 2023, we will:

  1. Offer more than 400 public, youth and family education and recreation programs.
  2. Host three traveling exhibitions – on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, Denver Botanic Garden, and the American Museum of Fly Fishing – at visitor centers in Romeoville, Channahon and Monee.
  3. Host 10 public events throughout the county offering individuals and families unique opportunities to engage with staff, presenters, partners and the environment.
  4. Complete installation of exterior exhibits as part of improvements to Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon and initiate phase I exhibit design for Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook.
  5. Host a yearlong campaign to grow further awareness of and participation in Forest Preserve offerings.
  6. Increase the number of followers engaging with our social media, while implementing new digital avenues for the public to connect with us.
  7. Continue to manage dynamic websites and digital newsletters that are a valuable source of information about our natural and cultural landscape.

Promoting health

The Forest Preserve provides:

  • Programs for audiences with special interests or needs including bilingual programs as well as programs for those with autism and sensory sensitivities.
  • A built environment with an emphasis on ADA best practices.
  • Regional trails that connect many of our communities and people to each other.
  • Welcoming visitor centers and staff that are firmly committed to appreciating and promoting equity, diversity, inclusiveness and wellness.
  • Digital options in the form of online programming, newsletters, websites and social media platforms.
A kayaker looking at birds.

In 2023, we will:

  1. Initiate reconstruction and improvement of a 2.25-mile segment of the Rock Run Greenway Trail within Rock Run Preserve in Joliet.
  2. Start construction of a 0.65-mile trail segment closing the last remaining gap in the 12-mile Rock Run Greenway Trail in Joliet.
  3. Initiate renovation of the Hidden Oaks Nature Center and surrounding campus in Bolingbrook to improve accessibility, increase program space and develop additional exhibition space.
  4. Complete an expansion of the Lake Chaminwood – Dollinger Family Access in Channahon to improve trail and kayak access, and provide additional visitor amenities.
  5. Finish construction of the Hidden Lakes Bait Shop in Bolingbrook.
  6. Continue planned bridge and trail renovation and reconstruction in several locations on the Wauponsee Glacial Trail.


The Forest Preserve partners with dozens of organizations each year to further its mission. From these, the District recognizes agencies annually with its Appreciation of Partners Award. Honorees are presented with a plaque before the full Board of Commissioners. The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority received the 2022 award. By dedicating a 20-foot-wide corridor along Interstate 355 for a future multi-use trail, the Tollway laid the groundwork for local jurisdictions and municipalities to make this trail a reality. 

Other partnerships in 2022 included:

  • City of Lockport
  • District 201 Balmoral Elementary School
  • Easterseals Joliet Region
  • Elmhurst History Museum
  • Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
  • Romeoville Art Society
  • Village of Homer Glen
  • SCARCE (School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education) • U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary


In 2022, the following grants were received:

Restoration at Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve and Prairie Bluff Preserve
Army Corps of Engineers

Trail cleanup along Joliet Junction TrailYouth Service America

Total grants: $282,035.36


In 2022, more than 11,800 hours of service were generously donated by 792 individuals, allowing the District to accomplish much more than it could without their diligent efforts.

A group of volunteers.

In 2023, we will:

  1. Participate in the yearlong 175th anniversary celebration of the I&M Canal throughout the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor.
  2. Participate in three outreach events in the local communities surrounding our visitor centers in Romeoville, Channahon, Bolingbrook, Crete Township and Joliet to increase local residents’ awareness of the Forest Preserve as well as the importance of the environment.
  3. Secure an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for standing permission to provide programming on IDNR properties.
  4. Partner with local organizations to offer three collaborative recreational programs or programs for specialized populations at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.
  5. Continue to work with Plainfield Park District on preservation of properties along the DuPage River and the extension of Normantown Trail.


In 2023, we will:

  1. Continue funding the Infrastructure Maintenance & Replacement Program, allowing for renovations of the Wauponsee Glacial Trail, Old Plank Road Trail and other facilities across the county.
  2. Continue habitat restoration efforts in the Kankakee Sands Area preserves, Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve and Forked Creek Preserve.
  3. Continue land management activities on the highest-quality natural areas and restoration sites throughout the forest preserve system.
  4. Continue to support the Prairie People Volunteer program.
  5. Continue to assist The Nature Foundation of Will County in building capacity and identifying projects, programs, events and exhibitions that it can support.



Photo credits: Glenn P. Knoblock, Chad Merda, Amy Miller, JoAnne Saleme,Anthony Schalk, Scott Seifrid

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