| Story by Meghan McMahon |
Some Will County preserves really shine at a particular time of year, but there’s never a bad time to visit Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve.
Goodenow Grove is one of the Forest Preserve District’s largest preserves, 891 acres in all. That acreage includes varied habitats, including forest, prairie and wetland, so there’s always something in season, said Heather Van Zyl, an interpretive naturalist for the Forest Preserve District.
More than half the preserve has received special protections from the state because it is a high-quality natural area. A 541-acre portion of the preserve was dedicated as a state nature preserve in 1996 to protect rare and endangered plant and animal species as well as uncommon habitat types.
The District first acquired a parcel of what is today Goodenow Grove in the late 1970s. Prior to that, it had been used as a scout camp known as Camp Crete for many decades. Since that initial acquisition, the preserve has grown by hundreds of acres and now includes one of the District’s visitor centers, Plum Creek Nature Center.
Goodenow Grove is on the far eastern side of the county, located on Dutton Road in Crete Township. The preserve is not far from the Indiana border, in one of the county's more rural areas. That remoteness makes it feel like a hidden treasure to those who discover it, Van Zyl said.
“I love the connectedness that we can have here in the middle of a number of small communities,” she said, adding that people often share how excited they are when they learn about the preserve and the nature center.